The Cardinals have officially announced the signing of Jhonny Peralta to a 4-year, $53 Million contract. The 32 year-old Peralta is certainly an upgrade over Pete Kozma, and may be a better fit for the Cardinals than Stephen Drew. However, he does come with concerns, as he has been inconsistent throughout his career, and more importantly, he missed 50 games in 2013 due to a PED suspension.
Shortstop was the biggest area of need for the Cardinals entering this offseason, but as I wrote earlier, the Cardinals had plenty of options. The Cardinals found that the trade market was too expensive, with every team seeking Shelby Miller and other power arms in the Cardinals’ system. Other Free Agent options included Stephen Drew and Rafael Furcal, but Peralta seemed to be the best fit because he is not tied to draft pick compensation, and he is a Right-handed hitter. This is significant because Peralta has a career slash line of 262/.339/.449 against Left-handed pitchers, which is an area where the St. Louis Cardinals struggled in 2013.
As I mentioned above, there are some concerns with Jhonny Peralta. First, his link to the Biogenesis clinic is concerning because we do not know how long he has used PEDs. However, I feel his production should remain in line with his career norms, but that is the question. What are Peralta’s career norms? His career slash line is .268/.330/.425 with 156 HRs and 22.9 WAR over more than 9 full seasons. However, in 2006 his WAR was just 0.2, as he slashed .257/.323/.385 with just 13 HRs. Again, across 2009 and 2010, Peralta accumulated just a 2.0 WAR. Just as recently as 2012, Peralta slashed just .239/.305/.384. For every down season, it seems that Peralta has another very strong season, as he has 5 full seasons with a wRC+ above 100, which is considered to be average. Just this past season, Peralta put up career numbers; however, he also had a career high Batting Average on Balls In Play at .374, which suggests he was a bit lucky.
A 4-year contract seems too long for a 32 year-old shortstop, but with a week Free Agent market for shortstops it is certainly understandable. Among the positives in the deal, is that the contract does not include a no-trade clause. This means the Cardinals could include him in a package if the later years become too expensive. The real concern is which Jhonny Peralta will the Cardinals see over the course of his contract. No matter which Peralta they get, he will be an upgrade over Kozma in the short-term, but will he be worth the $53 Million over the course of his 4-year deal?