Watching incumbent shortstop Pete Kozma struggle with the bat during 2013 was painful for many St. Louis Cardinals fans. After looking around for an external solution last off-season, the pressure on general manager John Mozeliak to take action this year had increased.
Despite everyone else knowing that same thing, Mozeliak acted quickly. With only two viable free agent options and a limited number of potential trade partners willing to consider trading a shortstop, it apparently did not take Mozeliak long to make up his mind on which path to take.
On November 25, the club officially announced the signing of 31-year-old free agent Jhonny Peralta, late of the Detroit Tigers, to a four-year, $53 million deal. Given Peralta’s recent past, the size of the contract caused alarm in many quarters.
The Dominican Native had been suspended for 50 games last summer following Major League Baseball’s investigation of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic. The Florida firm was linked to the distribution of banned performance-enhancing drugs to over a dozen major leaguers, including Peralta.
Mozeliak took on critics of the contract, noting that Peralta had admitted wrongdoing and served his penalty, and that the Cardinals were not about to appoint themselves ”morality police.”
The signing, as well as that of fellow Biogenesis-suspended player Nelson Cruz still ahead, may lead to stricter penalties across Major League Baseball.
For their part, the Cardinals added an offense-first shortstop that can also play third base and perhaps some corner outfield, a potential benefit later in the contract. They did so without forfeiting their first-round draft pick and without having to trade away young prospects or emerging stars.
Still for some, the stigma attached to the Cardinals adding a player who once used PEDs is difficult to accept. Time will tell if Peralta the Cardinal will win over his skeptics. He looks to have four years ahead to try.