On Saturday night, news that the St. Louis Cardinals are closing in on signing free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta was first shared by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The terms of the contract are not yet known, but Peter Gammons tweeted Friday that multiple general managers told him that Peralta had a four-year, $52 million deal on the table.
Fills a key positional need quickly. The Cardinals clearly need a shortstop who can hit and everyone in the game knows it. That the club could resolve it this early in the off-season is a good thing. Prices on free agents will not go down and it seems clear a fair trade was not out there to be made.
No top prospects/young players traded. St. Louis has been able to keep its entire cadre of young arms while improving both shortstop and centerfield, the latter via the David Freese–Peter Bourjos trade. 2014 injuries cannot be predicted, but the depth will almost certainly pay off.
No compensation pick lost. Detroit seems to have misread the market when they chose not to make Peralta a one-year qualifying offer. As a result, he can be signed by the Cardinals without loss of their 2014 first-round draft pick as compensation.
Defensive versatility. Peralta can also play third base and left field, a point to keep in mind for the future.
Years and money. As I said, we don’t know the exact terms, but it seems like at least four years and $50 million. The Cardinals have plenty of cash coming off the books in Chris Carpenter and Carlos Beltran, so have flexibility. I do not believe this signing would limit the team in making any other moves required down the road. Having a young and relatively inexpensive core allows the club to fill open needs this way when required.
Age 31. A long-term deal that touches the second half of anyone’s 30s is not ideal, but perhaps necessary in today’s market. As noted above, if better for the team, Peralta could be moved to another position down the road. A trade may or may not be possible, depending on the contract terms.
Defensive questions. According to defensive metrics I have seen, Peralta is not a Gold Glover, nor is he a butcher. No one is questioning his bat, which powered him to an All-Star berth in two of the last three years – or are they?
PED issue. Peralta’s 50-game suspension as part of the Biogenesis investigation is an emotional issue for some and a cause for fear of diminished production from others. We debated the former ad nauseum Saturday night at The Cardinal Nation message board, so I have nothing additional to say to the moralists other than “get real”. To those worried about a drop off in Peralta’s performance, I will note that he looked pretty good in the 2013 post-season. Then again, he had two months on the pines to rest up.
Overall, given the options apparently available, this looks like a reasonable signing for the Cardinals.