The Cardinals confirmed this afternoon that they have signed free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta. According to reports, the deal is a four year contract worth $53 million. The 31-year-old Peralta was a free agent after a three-year stint in Detroit where he hit .278/.334/.438 with 45 HRs and 204 RBI.
His stay there was capped off by a 50 game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal. He would return during the playoffs for Detroit and hit .333/.353/.545 in 10 playoff games with the Tigers.
Despite the scandal, he was one of a few heavily courted free agents because of the shortages of quality shortstops. He had drawn interest from the Mets, Yankees, and Orioles.
Peralta is clearly an offensive improvement over the guy he is replacing, Pete Kozma, who hit .217/.275/.273 last season while Peralta hit .303/.358/.457 in an abbreviated career year. Even if he regresses to his career averages of .268/.330/.425, he is still a marked improvement for the Cardinals offensively at the shortstop position.
While Peralta is expected to slide in at the shortstop position, some national writers have suggested that the Cardinals intend to play him at third base and either sign or trade for an additional shortstop this offseason.
Regardless, Peralta will still be an improvement on defense over Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso. Over the past three seasons, Peralta has a 98.9% fielding percentage and a 9.9 UZR/150. By comparison, Kozma is a career 94.9% fielder in the minors and posted a 98.4% this season along with an 8.0 UZR/150. Kozma is more likely to regress back to the fielder he has been, and while Peralta’s range seems to vary quite a bit from year-to-year, he should still provide a rock steady glove along with his offensive improvements.
The team will likely keep Kozma around, however, as their backup shortstop and general utility infielder. The team will likely choose one or the other going forward and I think it may be Kozma.
In the event that Peralta goes down with an injury, Kozma is the better shortstop. Neither Kozma nor Descalso are big hitters. We already have a left heavy bench. And Kozma can play all the positions Descalso can. Kozma will also cost about half as much.
The biggest thing about this deal for the Cardinals is that they have improved their defense (with Peter Bourjos and now Peralta), filled their two most gaping holes (right handed outfielder, shortstop), and they still haven’t touched their stock of young pitching prospects. A trade may still be out there for the Cardinals though as they have an excess of minor league outfield depth and potentially have 7 starting pitchers for 5 rotation spots.
Some detractors of the deal are pointing to his PED usage, and Cardinals fans will get their first taste of dealing with a suspended PED user.
I’ve already seen more than a few people rationalizing to themselves that Peralta never actually tested positive, so he may not be guilty. Except the problem with that theory is that we don’t guy buy Tylenol from a marijuana dealer on the street corner. You go to someone who deals legitimately. Peralta used and we know he did. Anyone who wants to think otherwise is fooling themselves.
For me, though, I don’t really have a big issue with it. I still believe that PED use is rampant in Major League Baseball and believe the number to be 2 out of 3 players. The Cardinals’ players aren’t any different, and I don’t expect that they are. I’d have rather filled the hole a different way because of Peralta’s ties, but I won’t call it a bad deal simply because of that.
Cabrera was having an MVP caliber season in 2012, hitting .357/.390/.516 for the Giants, when he got popped. That season was good enough for a 157 OPS+. His previous seven years? Only worth a 93 OPS+, below average. After his suspension he signed a two-year deal with Toronto and posted an 88 OPS+ last season. He turned back into the player he was before he got bused.
Braun was in the middle of what was arguably the worst season of his career when he caught his Biogenesis related suspension.
But regardless of those issues, Peralta is signed. He is an on paper improvement and he will be a Cardinal for the next four years and there is nothing we can do about that. All we can do is hope that he doesn’t get caught again and can continue to perform, but this time in Cardinal red.