With the Orioles still unsure about the status of the Winter Meetings in early December, including the Rule 5 draft that closes out the annual event, they occupied the final spot in their 40-man roster today by claiming left-hander Cionel Pérez off waivers from the Reds.
Pérez was a highly touted pitcher out of Cuba who signed with the Astros as an international free agent on Dec. 9, 2016. Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias served as Houston’s scouting director.
The first signing took place on Sept. 16 and was worth $5.15 million, but the Astros voided the deal due to an issue with his physical. They reached agreement three months later on a contract that paid $2 million.
The Reds acquired Pérez, 25, in January for minor league catcher/first baseman Luke Berryhill. Pérez appeared in 25 games this summer and posted a 6.38 ERA and 1.708 WHIP in 24 innings.
Pérez allowed 17 earned runs (21 total) and 21 hits in 24 innings, with 20 walks and 25 strikeouts. He appeared in 20 games with the Astros over parts of the previous three seasons and had a 5.74 ERA and 1.463 WHIP in 26 2/3 innings, with 15 walks and 27 strikeouts.
The minor league totals are more favorable, with Pérez registering a 3.60 ERA and 1.328 WHIP in 89 games and averaging 3.4 walks, 9.7 strikeouts and 0.5 home runs surrendered per nine innings. He had a 3.26 ERA and 1.286 WHIP this year in 31 games with Triple-A Louisville, striking out 41 batters in 30 1/3 innings.
Left-handed hitters are 12-for-67 (.179) against Pérez in the majors.
Before signing with the Astros, Pérez last pitched for Matanzas in 2014 and led Cuba’s Serie Nacional with a 2.06 ERA in 17 starts at age 18. He went 7-2, struck out 75 batters in 87 1/3 innings and allowed only two home runs.
So, what about the full 40-man roster?
The Orioles can make other moves to create room if adding players on major league contracts, but business might shut down with the collective bargaining agreement expiring on Dec. 1. They can’t participate in the Rule 5 draft without openings, but the industry is bracing for the cancellation of the meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Major League Baseball bumped the deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration eligible players from Dec. 2 to Nov. 30. The Orioles have decisions pending on Trey Mancini, John Means, Anthony Santander, Jorge López, Paul Fry and Tanner Scott.
Fry, Scott and Pérez are the only left-handed relievers on the 40-man.