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?
The St. Louis Cardinals have just completed a very successful season, in which they won the National League Pennant. However, even after such a successful season this club has plenty of issues to address this offseason. The Cardinals must look for an improvement at shortstop and also need to find a way to fit Kolten Wong into the everyday lineup, likely at 2nd base. While the Cardinals will likely address needs in Centerfield and their bullpen, this post will focus on the Cardinals’ options to fill their hole at Shortstop.
During the 2013 season, the Cardinals used a combination of Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso at shortstop. Both of these players are light-hitting infielders, who fit best as utility infielders, but were used more as starters at one of the most important positions on the field. Kozma was initially used as the starting shortstop with the belief that his defensive ability would make up for any weaknesses in his offensive game; however, as the season continued, it was clear that his offense was worse than expected. This led the Cardinals to add Descalso to the mix at short, as he is a better hitter that Kozma, although still below league average. The duo combined for a 63 wRC+ and -0.3 WAR, each of which ranked the Cardinals’ shortstops 27th in the MLB at the position.
It is clear that the Cardinals need a new option at this position, as they can no longer afford to get such little production from such a premier position. The Cardinals do not have an elite prospect in their system that inspires hope that the answer can come from within the organization, so it is likely that they will have to address this issue from outside the organization. Now let’s analyze some of the options the Cardinals can turn to.
- 1. Re-sign Rafael Furcal: There has not been much talk of this option and there is good reason for that. He is not a long-term solution and may choose to retire after missing the entire season due to Tommy John surgery.
- 2. Transition Kolten Wong to Shortstop: Many Cardinals fans hope for this solution. It would provide a long-term solution at short and give the Cardinals the opportunity to hang onto fan favorite, David Freese. However, this is not a very realistic possibility due to his lack of range and fringy defense at second base.
- 3. Trade for Troy Tulowitzki: The Cardinals have the Farm System to pull off such a big trade, but the Rockies insist that they will not trade Tulowitzki. The Cardinals may not want to pay the price, but if the Rockies become willing to trade Tulowitzki, he would immediately become the best option available.
- 4. Trade for JJ Hardy: This has been discussed since last offseason, but it is more likely that the Orioles will extend him, especially after the injury to Manny Machado.
- 5. Trade for Erick Aybar: The Angels are looking for pitching and the Cardinals have surplus pitching, essentially making this a very likely possibility is the Angels are willing to deal a quality shortstop they just extended through 2016. Aybar is a plus defender, who put together two strong offensive seasons between 2011 and 2012.
- 6. Trade for Asdrubal Cabrera: Definitely the most talked about trade possibility since last offseason. Cabrera had a down season in 2013, but is still a quality defender and should return to being a premier offensive shortstop. The Indians would likely be willing to trade Cabrera for pitching, especially since they have top prospect, Francisco Lindor in the Minor Leagues, potentially ready to ascend to the Major Leagues.
- 7. Trade for Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar: The Rangers have surplus middle infielders and are likely to trade one of Andrus, Profar or Ian Kinsler. Andrus was just signed to an 8-year extension, but they were reportedly willing to trade him this past Trade Deadline. Profar is a 20-year-old elite shortstop prospect, who may require just as big a return as Andrus. The Rangers would seek Major League level talent, making this a difficult trade to pull off.
- 8. Trade for Alexei Ramirez: The White Sox would likely jump at the opportunity to trade Ramirez for prospects as they begin to rebuild. However, there are concerns about his declining power and his always-poor on-base numbers. His defense is still strong and he would not require as much talent in return, but he likely would provide as much value as the other options.
- 9. Trade for Yunel Escobar: Escobar enjoyed a strong first season with the Rays, as his defense greatly improved and his on-base numbers went back up to .332 from .300. However, there are concerns about his mental makeup and his clubhouse attitude.
Free Agent Possibilities:
- Sign Stephen Drew: Arguably the best Free Agent shortstop available, but he has plenty of holes in his swing. He is an outstanding defensive shortstop and hit 13 home runs in 2013. His agent is Scott Boras, which could complicate things, but if the Cardinals choose not to trade from their Farm System, then Drew is the most likely solution to their shortstop woes.
- Sign Jhonny Peralta: He was suspended for 50 games last season for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic. That could drive his price down, even though he is coming off a strong season, in which he slashed .303/.358/.457. He is a consistent defender, but his offensive numbers have been sporadic through the years.
Looking at all 11 of these possibilities may seem ridiculous considering some are unlikely, but the Cardinals have the Farm System and the financial resources to pull off any of these moves. I feel the three most likely moves are the Cardinals acquiring either Aybar or Cabrera via trade, or Drew via Free Agency if they are unable to swing a trade. No matter what move they make, it is clear that the Cardinals will do something this offseason to address their hole at shortstop.
Check out pieces that the Cardinals have to trade: https://baseballstooges.com/2013/11/13/cardinals-trade-chips-for-2013-2014-offseason/