Contract Finalized With Veteran Perez

The worst kept secret of the off-season still hasn't been announced by the Indians, who have finally signed free agent Eduardo Perez to a one-year contract with a club option for 2007. The team can't announce the transaction until it finds a way to fit him onto the 40-man roster by either trading or releasing another player.

As reported by several fans on the Indians Ink message forum for weeks, Perez signed with Cleveland and is expected to platoon with Ben Broussard at first base. With some experience playing third base and the outfield as well, he essentially would assume the role handled by Jose Hernandez in 2005 as a right-handed fill-in.

Though met with yawns and derision by disgruntled fans who would prefer that the team had signed a big-name, big-money hitter, the signing could prove to be another of general manager Mark Shapiro's little touches that prove big overall.

Perez, 36, the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, has hit left-handed pitching well during a 12-year career with the Angels, Reds, Cardinals and Devil Rays. He has been particularly effective against lefties the past three seasons:

2003-05 vs. LHP: .288 (76-for-264), 19 homers, 46 RBI
2003-05 vs. RHP: .239 (45-for-188), 4 homers, 30 RBI

With Tampa Bay in 2005, he hit .255 (41-for-161) with six doubles, 11 homers and 28 RBI, including .259 (35-for-135) with 10 homers and 24 RBI against lefties.

"He is a little more experienced than Jose Hernandez was, having played in the American League," Shapiro had said last week. "I just feel good about him in that role."

A first-round draft pick by the Angels in 1991 out of Florida State, Perez made his big-league debut two years later. Traded to his father's old team, the Cincinnati Reds, in 1996, he had his best season in 1997 when he hit 16 homers with 52 RBI in only 297 at-bats.

He signed with St. Louis as a free agent in 1999 and was sold to the Hanshin Tigers of Japan after the 2000 season, but returned to the Cardinals to start the 2002 season. He played the last two years for Tampa Bay.

In 674 career games, Perez has a .261 average with 70 homers and 261 RBI. Against lefties, he has hit .263 with 47 homers and 168 RBI.

Broussard hit .255 with 19 homers and 68 RBI last season, but only .225 with three homers and 11 RBI in 80 at-bats against left-handers.