SURPRISE, Ariz. – Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow, keeping the six-time All-Star off the field for the entire 2019 season.
The decision was made after Perez received a second opinion Tuesday from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Los Angeles Dodgers' team physician. Perez hurt the elbow during a workout last week and said over the weekend that he was harboring a slim hope that he might be able to play through it.
Instead, he is expected to undergo surgery on Wednesday.
"There was nothing that can prepare us for this. There was no information we had that led us this direction," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "Salvy was having no issues. He's asymptomatic. He has wear and tear, just like any 28-year-old catcher who's been squatting and catching since he was 12 years old. There was no warning sign or anything like that."
Perez hit just .235 last season, but he had 27 homers and drove in 80 runs while providing a solid and calming presence behind the plate. The MVP of the 2015 World Series, Perez was being counted upon to help the rebuilding Royals take the steps necessary to return to the playoffs, particularly when it came to their young but promising starting rotation.
Now, Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are expected to share time behind the plate.
"We're fortunate to have two really good, young catchers that have tremendous upside," Moore said. "Cam is a young guy that can really receive. We feel highly confident in his ability back there to call a game, and we like Viloria a great deal as well as an emerging guy."
Moore also said he would scour the remaining free agents – Martin Maldonado is still available – and reach out to other clubs about potential trades. Perez has won AL Gold Gloves in five of the last six years, with Maldonado breaking that string in 2017.
But Moore acknowledged the Royals tried to acquire a veteran backup for Perez earlier in the offseason and came up empty.
"We'll see how camp unfolds," Moore said. "It's hard to get a third-, fourth-type catcher or veteran major league backup to join Kansas City. Nobody wants to do that. They see Salvador and say, 'Well, I'll never get a chance to re-establish myself.’"
That's not an issue anymore, but most of the veterans that were available are in camp elsewhere.
One thing Moore did make clear is the Royals have no intention of rushing MJ Melendez, one of their top prospects, to the big leagues. Melendez spent last season at Class A Lexington.
"We'll play that out and see where he is in July or August and if indeed we need some help there," Moore said. "But you have to look at this as a positive, that it gives others an opportunity."
The Royals have embraced a run-run-run style of play this season, signing such speedsters as Billy Hamilton and Chris Owings. But that also means they have very little power throughout their lineup, and Perez was expected to help provide the opportunity to change a game in one swing.
His biggest value now will come as a cheerleader. He remained one of the most upbeat players in the clubhouse, even after the injury surfaced, and his experience is invaluable for a young team.
"It's definitely not ideal losing a captain, losing our best player. It's going to hurt any team," Gallagher said. "We have to come together as a group and fill those shoes a little bit."