Despite playing in only 39 games last season Sal led Royals catchers in rWAR with 1.1, Pena and Matt Treanor played 137 games combined and had just 0.7 rWAR to show for it. For a team expecting to compete* this season Sal's absence is sort of a big deal. If Billy Butler was hurt or had to replace an injured Eric Hosmer I don't think Kevin Kouzmanoff and Clint Robinson would wet the bed offensively if they platooned at DH for a couple months (though I acknowledge I could be wrong about that). The same goes for Mitch Maier if he has to replace any of the starting outfielders.
*I realize people have differing definitions of competing so let me explain real quick what it means to me. It's easy to look at the final 2011 Central standings and conclude that Detroit ran away with the division, but that's not accurate. Last season the Indians won 80 games and finished 15 back of the Tigers but if you recall they were in the thick of the Central race into late August. When I say the Royals can compete despite winning 80-82 games, that's what I'm talking about, four and a half to five months where they are within a few games of the leader. Now next season I may decide that's not good enough and define it differently, but for 2011, it absolutely will be.
Whoever they end up bringing in will still be a significant step down from Perez, offensively and defensively. It's just a massively disappointing way to start the season. I didn't believe that last season's run of good luck health-wise would carry over into 2012 but I didn't think it'd hit this early, or hit Sal.
It should have been Yuni.