SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Salvador Perez signed a club-friendly deal with the Royals four years ago in part so his mother, Yilda, would no longer have to work in their increasingly violent hometown in Venezuela.
Now, Perez hopes he can move her to the U.S. permanently.
The Royals signed the All-Star catcher to a contract through 2021 on Tuesday that guarantees him an additional $52.5 million over five seasons. The deal was announced two days after Yilda had her SUV stolen at gunpoint on the way to the market – she was unharmed and the vehicle was later recovered by the police.
“It feels like a family here,” Perez said. “Hopefully I can play the rest of my career here, be one of these guys like Frank White and George Brett.”
The 25-year-old Perez is set to make $2 million this season, the final guaranteed year of a deal signed in 2012 that included club options for 2017-19. His new deal includes a $6 million signing bonus and salaries of $3 million next season, $7.5 million in 2018, $10 million in 2019 and $13 million each in 2020 and 2021.
“Every player is difference, every negotiation is unique and we take them on a case-by-case basis,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “We felt this was something that would take place in time.”
Perez signed with the Royals as a 16-year-old prospect but shot through the minor league system. He made his big league debut in 2011, became the everyday backstop the following season and has been voted to the All-Star game each of the past three years.
He hit .260 with a career-best 21 homers and 70 RBIs last season, helping the Royals to their second consecutive World Series appearance. They beat the Mets in five games for their first title since 1985, and he was the MVP.
Now, he hopes to help the Royals win many more championships.
Perez is the second homegrown star to agree to a long-term deal with Kansas City this offseason, joining All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon, who signed a $72 million, four-year contract in January.
“The thing about him that’s so infectious about him is his love for the game,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He loves playing baseball. Everybody can sense it from his teammates to the fans watching him to the people that watch him on TV. His energy is off the charts.”
The popular narrative is that the Royals have a two-year window to win because star players such as Eric Hosmer can reach free agency after the 2017 season. But the decision to sign Perez – even though he was under club control – shows Moore is willing to pay to keep the foundations of the club intact.
“Salvy is easy to believe in,” Moore said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
Perez signed a five-year, $7 million deal before the 2012 season, a deal even at the time considered exceedingly club-friendly. But he chose to accept the deal in part so that his mother would no longer have to work in their increasingly violent Venezuelan neighborhood.
After her carjacking Sunday, the affable catcher is hopeful she can stay in the U.S. permanently.
“I still love my country. I’m from Venezuela,” he said. “We’ve got bad places everywhere in the world – there’s going to be good people and bad people – but in Venezuela it’s a little more.”
Perez said he feels safe when he travels home, but that’s because he has six bodyguards when he visits clinics or meets with fans. His teammate and countryman, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, has four bodyguards with him whenever he ventures out in public.
The violence has been slowly escalating since the 2013 death of Hugo Chavez, the nation’s polarizing president. Political protests, demonstrations and civil unrest have become everyday occurrences, and high unemployment has forced many people to turn to crime to survive.
Four years ago, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped outside his home in Valencia, the same city where Perez grew up. He was rescued by commandos in the mountains two days later.
“Sometimes I understand why bad people do it. They have four kids, they don’t have a job, they want to be able to buy food,” Perez said. “They do the wrong thing but they have to.”
Perez has a green card and would like to become a U.S. citizen, but his mother is limited to six-month stays. She’s planning to join him in Arizona after the kidnapping ordeal, and Perez plans to look into options to ensure that Yilda can stay with him on a more permanent basis.
“When things like that happen,” he said, “we just think about staying here and never going back to my country. But it’s still a little hard because I still have my family there. Last year I went only for five weeks, this year maybe for two weeks, but it’s hard. That makes me sad because I love my country. There’s good people there. But I have to protect my family. People have to understand that.”