When The Cardinals acquired Jhonny Peralta in November around Thanksgiving, fans didn’t immediately look at him like a hot delicious looking turkey. They were skeptical and had a right to be. Peralta was suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs in 2013 and missed 50 games while with the Detroit Tigers. He carried a stain when General Manager John Mozeliak handed him a 4 year/52 million dollar deal before the winter season of acquisition and trades could begin. In acquiring Peralta, Mo didn’t have to relinquish any of his toys but also took on a fair amount of risk. As the team plays into the end of June and the midway point of the season has been passed, the deal looks pretty good.
Sure, Peralta is 32 years old but 4 years isn’t forever and was a deal that helped both sides. Peralta wanted to turn the page and take another run at a World Series and the Cards needed more pop at shortstop. This wasn’t as crazy as giving a 32 year old man named Albert 10 years. Peralta was worth the squeeze because he was versatile and willing to fill in at third base and the outfield if needed. While others screamed that 4 years was too much, I think the deal was fair. The Cards knew other teams had a full read on their needs and talent depth, so the risk was there. I loved the Peralta deal from day one and instantly understood it.
Here is what Peralta is doing. I like to put the stats out there just in case anyone is confused about my point.
He has 11 home runs, 33 RBI, and 21 doubles. His defense has been above average, which is a pleasant surprise. The biggest problem folks had with the deal was his questionable defense. The sabermetrics pointed out that his shortstop work wasn’t as bad as some presumed and that has been proven right over the first 76 games. Peralta makes the routine plays as well as a handful of great ones, and doesn’t make a ton of errors or take a lot of risks. He is a smart defender more than anything. Back to his offense.
He has 11 home runs, which puts him on pace for around 23-25. His RBI could end up around 75-80. His average is .266 for his career so that should go up along with his .323 on base percentage. He has 55 strikeouts, which is in danger if Peter Bourjos gets a decent amount of at bats. Peralta is a slugger by trade and strikeouts and a lower on base percentage come with the territory. Peralta swings big and doesn’t leave anything to chance at the plate.
His overall WAR(ESPN) is 3.2. Peralta gives you over 3 runs over his replacement, which is huge considering what Pete Kozma offered last year. That is the point people must remember.
The Cards needed more pop and general improvement at shortstop. Peralta has given them that and then some. He has hit home runs, driven in runs, and slugged .440(tops on the team, same as his WAR). When you look at it as an area of need and how one man has made it better or not, Peralta is passing every test right now.
Sure, the deal could blow up. Peralta could get nabbed for steroid use again. He could have a huge downfall. He could start making errors and regress defensively. He could afford to hit more with RISP so you can keep an eye on that.
When Peralta spoke at the Winter Warmup, he sounded like a determined man. He wanted to make things right. He didn’t want to waste any time and potentially destroy his career. He didn’t sound like a guy who was going to repeat a horrible mistake.
When people say Peralta is a bust, I need to know what they are looking at. I just don’t see it. He is making 15 million dollars this year, but when a GM goes for the free agent over the trade, the dollars spent will be more than what you would like. That’s sports business and politics for you. Sure, Mo could have offered the Rockies 4 players and taken on Troy Tulowitzki‘s 7 years and 100 million plus contract. He could have reached far and wide for Elvis Andrus in Texas and given up Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Matt Adams. Where would the Cards be right now with their current rotation fatigue if Mo had pulled that trigger? Right….
Jhonny Peralta is proving his worth one game at a time. Great defense, power bat and a steady contributor. I don’t even think we have seen the best of him yet. When the rest of the lineup fully engages, I think Peralta will get better. When more guys consistently get on base in front of him, he will only produce more. In the right context, Peralta has been a great sign. He has a higher ceiling to touch, but at the moment, I will gladly take his WAR and his .762 OPS with open arms.