Much to the dismay of moralists and lexicographers in St. Louis, Jhonny Peralta is a Cardinal.
4 years and $52 million dollars is what it took to lure the free agent most recently employed by Detroit to come south to St. Louis. He was not tendered an offer by the Tigers, so the Cardinals will not be losing any draft compensation.
Reaction (unlike the Freese trade) has been mixed:
+ He was an All Star in 2013 and has a career line of .330 (OBP) / .425 (SLG) / .755 (OPS). For comparison, Pete Kozma for his career is .232 (OBP) / .293 (SLG) / .608 (OPS). The difference is even more stark in 2013.
+ Career oWAR of 26.5 and dWAR of 4.6. In 2013 those numbers were 3.2 and 0.7, representing his value to be worth about 4 wins for the Tigers. Not to pick on the guy, but Kozma was – 0.9 oWAR and 1.3 dWAR, meaning he was pretty much the proverbial 'replacement level player'. Note that Kozma, for all the defensive talk was only a 1.3 WAR player for '13 and only a 1.7 for his career, albeit a career much shorter than Peralta.
+ He's durable. Sans his 50 game suspension (see below), he hasn't missed any time of note, playing 140+ games every other full season he's been in MLB.
+ He had 11 HRs in 2013 and 45 in the past 3 seasons. Power ABs aren't mandatory for shortstops, but to have that threat in the bottom 1/3 of the order is nice treat.
+ He didn't speak much English when he came to the US, but still managed to wife up an American.
+ He bats RH and will be in a (presumptive) infield of Adams, Wong and Carpenter that features 3 LH bats. He batted .352 against LH pitchers in '13, though, meaning that most staffs are going to have a tough time pitching around the Cardinals in late games.
+ He wanted to be in St. Louis. Other teams (most likely the Mets) had offers out to Peralta for 4 years at his asking price while the Cardinals waned to sign him for 3. Peralta asked the Cardinals to come up because he wanted to be here. He still got paid… so it's not the biggest pro. But it's worth noting.
+ Kozma or Descalso aren't doing this.
– He served a 50 game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. You can read his full quote on the suspension here and decide if you accept it. But there is zero doubt that he was involved in performance enhancing drugs in some capacity.
– Did you like David Freese? Of course you did. But did you like the way he moved in the infield? If not, then you might not like Peralta. He's not, shall we say, graceful. He gets the job done on defense (see above), but he's not Kozma. Or Brendan Ryan.
– The contract is about $13 million over 4 years. He's 31 now. Yes, he can move to the OF or play 3B if he becomes a liability on defense in the next few years, but the Cardinals have made a pretty substantial commitment to Peralta. Not a totally fair comparison… but Yadier Molina only makes $2 million more per year than Peralta.
– The Tigers didn't tender him. It's a curious move, since he made it clear he wanted 4 years and wouldn't take their 1 year deal. Still, the Tigers, on the very off chance that he took their offer, couldn't live with JP for 1 year 14-15 million?
BOTTOM LINE –
The Cardinals had to make a move.
Did they get a steal? Probably not. Did they overpay a bit. Probably so. Did they get a guy that is durable and much better than they had? Yes.
Yes they did.
When news of this signing was breaking all over Twitter on Saturday afternoon, I can't say I was wild about Jhonny Peralta as a Cardinal. But as the stats come out, it looks like the Cardinals have made a substantial upgrade at SS.
As always, we'll know more when he laces them up in April.