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The Kansas City Royals should soon make the transition from rebuilder to contender, and they're making sure stalwart catcher Salvador Perez will be part of the process. Perez has signed a new four-year contract extension with a club option for a fifth year, the team announced Sunday. He would have become a free agent after the 2021 season.

The Athletic's Alec Lewis has the details of Perez's new contract:

  • 2021: $13 million (part of previous contract)
  • 2022: $18 million
  • 2023: $20 million
  • 2024: $20 million
  • 2025: $22 million
  • 2026: $13.5 million club option ($2 million buyout)

With $82 million in new money, Perez's extension is the largest contract in Royals history, surpassing the four-year contract worth $72 million the club gave Alex Gordon in 2016. The $20.5 million average annual value makes this the third-richest catching contract in history, trailing only J.T. Realmuto ($23.1 million) and Joe Mauer ($23 million).

Perez, 31 in May, missed 2019 with Tommy John surgery and is coming off an injury and COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, though he had a career year offensively. He authored a .333/.353/.633 batting line with 11 home runs in 156 plate appearances and 37 games, earning him a handful of MVP votes. Perez is a career .269/.300/.449 hitter in parts of nine big-league seasons.

This is the third time Perez has signed a long-term extension to remain with the Royals. He signed a five-year, $7 million extension in February 2012, after he played 39 games during his MLB debut in 2011. Perez then signed a new five-year, $52.5 million extension in March 2016, replacing the final few years of his first extension. Now he has a new four-year deal.

Pitch-framing metrics have never loved Perez, though he's posted a league average or better caught stealing rate throughout his career, and he's long earned rave reviews for his work with pitchers. He's a power-first catcher -- Perez averaged 30.4 homers per 162 games from 2015-20 -- who seems to excel at the parts of catching that are difficult to quantify.

Perez is already the Royals franchise leader in games caught -- he's caught 894 games and Mike Macfarlane is a distant second with 744 -- and the new extension all but guarantees he will move into the top 10 on the franchise's games played list regardless of position. He is currently 13th in franchise history with 959 games played.    

The Royals are starting to see the fruits of their rebuild, particularly on the mound. Brady Singer is entrenched in the rotation, Kris Bubic had a fine MLB debut last year, and top pitching prospects Jackson Kowar, Asa Lacy, and Daniel Lynch aren't too far behind. The club also has shortstop and spring training sensation Bobby Witt Jr. in the system.

Kansas City went 26-34 (70-win pace in a 162-game season) and finished in fourth place in the AL Central in 2020. SportsLine projects the club as a 76-win team with a 25 percent chance to make the postseason in 2021.