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Rangers find offseason's best bargain in Martin Perez

Martin Perez is already making the contract extension he signed with the Rangers this offseason look like a huge bargain.

Tom Pennington

Not much was made of the contract extension the Texas Rangers gave Martin Perez this offseason. After all, a four-year deal worth $12.5 million with three team options tacked on at the end is hardly newsworthy when players are signing contracts worth upwards of $100 million.

Nevertheless, Perez has quickly made the Rangers look shrewd for locking him up until the 2020 season, even when the types of pre-arbitration deals that Perez signed are growing increasingly common. Having to pay Perez an average of $3.1 million through the next four seasons will do wonders for the Rangers' payroll and represents just the type of cheap, low-risk deal that teams are looking to make in today's MLB landscape.

Grading the Unwritten Rules

Back in February, the Braves signed 23-year-old Julio Teheran to a six-year, $32.4 million extension, and the White Sox and Rays followed suit in agreeing with 25-year-old Jose Quintana (five years, $21 million) and  25-year-old Chris Archer (six years, $20 million) on deals that include multiple years of team options as well.

Given that Perez's contract is even more financially friendly and the left-hander has been one of baseball's best starters this April already, the Rangers' ability to lock up Perez for up to seven seasons is looking better each time he takes the mound.

Through four starts this year, the Venezuelan has posted a 1.42 ERA, striking out 23 and walking nine. This comes after a solid performance during his first full big league season, when Perez finished with a 3.62 ERA and a 4.23 FIP in 124 innings. Long a top prospect in the Texas organization, Perez finally found consistency in the majors after a bumpy debut in 2012, quelling fears about his low strikeout numbers.

Perez's 17 percent strikeout rate in 2014 is still well below league-average, but that hasn't stopped the left-hander from finding an approach that works against major league hitters.

It didn't prevent Texas from betting on Perez and his steady results, either.

The young Ranger has been even better this season thanks to an increased penchant for generating ground balls born from a heavier reliance on his sinker. In 2013, Perez threw his four-seam fastball more than any other offering and mixed in a sinker and changeup with roughly equal frequency.

This season, Perez has increased his sinker usage from 26.9 percent to 37 percent -- the highest of all his pitches, according to Brooks Baseball -- and the results have only grown more encouraging.

Thanks to his sinker (and a changeup and slider that also frequently produce ground balls), Perez has been able to post a 60.8 percent groundball rate, which enables him to limit damage despite his low strikeout totals by generating weak contact and keeping the ball in the yard. In fact, Perez's groundball rate is the third-highest in the majors thus far in 2014, only ranking behind Mike Leake and teammate Robbie Ross.

More importantly for Perez and the Rangers, his ability to induce loads of groundballs should make him a good long-term fit for the homer-friendly confines in Arlington.

Perez is certainly in for some regression in the weeks ahead. He hasn't allowed a home run yet (he gave up 15 in 2013), and his BABIP and LOB% are at unsustainable levels, even if he continues to pitch well.

But the Rangers aren't expecting Perez to finish the season with a 1.42 ERA, nor are they paying him to pitch like one of the best five starters in baseball (which he been has thus far). The Rangers are paying Perez $12.5 million over the next four years, and it's a near certainty he will be worth far more than that before those team-friendly options kick in as Perez turns 27.

In an era when more and more clubs are tying up their young players to low-budget deals, Perez's extension stands out as especially team-friendly and cost effective. Perez has been crucial in helping Texas cope with a multitude of injuries to its rotation this season, and he will remain a bargain for the Rangers well into the future.