SURPRISE, Ariz. — 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, the All-Star catcher is hopeful he can move her to the U.S. permanently.
Perez and the Royals agreed to a contract through 2021 on Tuesday that guarantees the All-Star catcher an additional $52.5 million over five seasons. The deal was announced two days after Yilda had her SUV stolen at gunpoint — she was unharmed and the vehicle was later recovered by the national police.
The 25-year-old Perez is scheduled to make $2 million this season, the final guaranteed year of the contract he signed in 2012 that includes 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.
"The thing about him that’s so infectious about him is his love for the game," Royals manager Ned Yost said Tuesday. "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."
Perez signed with the Royals as a 16-year-old prospect from Venezuela, 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.
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 off-season, joining All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon, who signed a $72 million, four-year contract in January.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore has made it clear that he doesn’t view the club as having a two-year window to compete for titles, even though star players such as Eric Hosmer can reach free agency after the 2017 season. And the decision to sign Perez — even though he was under club control through 2019 — is another example of Moore willing to pay to keep the foundations of the club intact.
Perez signed a five-year, $7 million deal before the 2012 season, a deal that even at the time was considered exceedingly club-friendly. But Perez chose to accept the deal in part so that his mother would no longer have to work in their increasingly violent Venezuelan neighbourhood.
After the carjacking on Sunday, the affable catcher is hopeful she can move to 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. But you have to try not to go there. You try to go to good places."
Perez said he feels safe when he travels to Venezuela, but that’s because he has six bodyguards with him when he visits clinics or meets with fans. His teammate and countryman, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, will have four bodyguards with him whenever he ventures out in the countryside.
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 an everyday occurrence, and high rates of unemployment have forced many people to turn to crime to make ends meet.
Four years ago, Washington 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 eventually like to become a U.S. citizen, but his mother is limited to six-month stays. She is 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."