ARLINGTON, Texas -- Roberto Perez is technically a backup catcher, but the Indians do not believe that label does him justice. Cleveland believes it has a pair of catchers capable of starting and values having a tandem that has earned the trust of the team's talented pitching staff.
On Sunday, the Indians put their belief in Perez on display, signing the catcher to a four-year, $9 million extension that includes team options for 2021 and '22. Perez's contract has a maximum potential value of $21.5 million if the Tribe picks up the options.
"At some point in his career," manager Terry Francona said, "and I don't know when that's going to be, but he'll be an everyday catcher. I think him signing kind of shows the respect that the organization has for him."
Perez will begin this season as the backup to Yan Gomes, who signed a six-year extension with the Indians prior to the 2014 campaign. Both Gomes and Perez are locked in through 2019, and Cleveland has club options for its starting catcher for the '20 and '21 seasons.
Francona has noted that Perez will play more than a typical backup.
"I always tell Yan, it's kind of like a friendly competition," Perez said. "The good part is we have a great relationship. We try to help each other out as much as we can. We just want to go out and help the team win in any way we can and control the pitching staff. That's our priority."
Perez's deal comes with a $500,000 signing bonus and will pay him $550,000 in '17, $1.5 million in '18, $2.5 million in '19 and $3.5 million in '20. He can earn $5.5 million in '21 and $7 million in '22, or Cleveland can pay the catcher a $450,000 buyout for either team option.
The signing comes after Cleveland inked infielder Jose Ramirez to a five-year extension last week. There are now 10 players on the Indians' roster who have signed extensions with the club.
"I'm very grateful," Perez said. "They're doing a pretty good job of locking players up. We're young. We have a great future in this organization. ... Hopefully, we bring a championship to Cleveland this year."
Perez, 28, was limited to 61 games last year due to a fractured right thumb, but he assumed the starting role down the stretch with Gomes sidelined, and then started all 15 of Cleveland's postseason games.
Offensively, Perez has hit .220 with a .674 OPS in 160 career games in the big leagues. Defense, however, is his specialty.
Over the 2014-16 seasons, Perez has registered 14 Defensive Runs Saved, ranking fifth among all Major League catchers. Perez has thrown out 43 percent of would-be basestealers -- compared to the 30 percent league average -- in his career. Perez also excels at pitch framing. According to Statcast™, on pitches outside the strike zone, Perez received a called strike six percent of the time in '16. Among catchers with at least 7,000 total pitches caught, Perez ranked ninth in that area. The league average was 5.4 percent.
In the World Series, Perez launched two home runs in Game 1 against the Cubs. He joined Yogi Berra (1956) and Johnny Bench (1976) as the only catchers in World Series history to enjoy a game with a pair of homers and at least four RBIs.
"[When] we got into the playoffs," Francona said, "he threw the ball well, he caught the ball well, he ran the game really well, followed the game plan really well. I think he grew up right in front of our own eyes."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.