SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals agreed to a $2.5 million, one-year deal with Martin Maldonado on Saturday, giving them a veteran catcher after losing Salvador Perez to a season-ending injury.
The deal includes up to $1.4 million in incentives for games caught, according to a person familiar with the terms, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Maldonado still must pass a physical for the contract to become official.
Maldonado spent last season with the Angels and Astros, hitting .225 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in 119 games. But his biggest strength has been his ability to frame pitches and play defense, and his experience should help what is expected to be a young Royals team this season.
In fact, Maldonado’s Gold Glove in 2017 broke Perez’s streak of four straight.
Perez underwent Tommy John surgery last week after tearing a ligament in his throwing arm during a spring training workout. Perez is expected to remain with the club while rehabbing this season, and the hope is that the six-time All-Star will be ready by next spring.
“We move on. That’s the way it is,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Salvy is going to be with us all year long, he’s going to be there doing his rehab — the rehab is a difficult process. But we have to continue to move forward.”
Perez’s injury meant the Royals were poised to enter the season with Cam Gallagher, a defensive-minded career backup, and 22-year-old Meibrys Viloria, who has had just 22 big league at-bats.
They had also been mulling the use of Frank Schwindel, a college catcher now at first base.
But general manager Dayton Moore said he would seek a veteran backstop, whether it was through free agency or a trade. And speculation quickly settled upon the 32-year-old Maldonado, mainly because he was the only veteran that wasn’t already in a major league camp.
He broke into the majors with Milwaukee in 2011 and spent his first six years there, before a season-plus with the Angeles. Los Angeles traded him to the Astros last July, and Maldonado helped the club reach the AL Championship Series before losing to the Boston Red Sox.
He will have a quick turnaround before opening day.
The Royals played the Diamondbacks on Saturday and face the Padres on Sunday, then have split-squad games against the Mariners and Rangers on Monday. But after that, they have just 14 more games before the start of the regular season, including split-squad games next weekend.
Kansas City opens the regular season March 28 against the White Sox.