Making sense of the Peralta deal

From Biogenesis to big deal . . .

From Biogenesis to big deal . . .

So what to make of the Jhonny Peralta signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, in the wake of his having been one of the Biogenesis 13? Among other things:

1) A four year deal at $52 million dollars isn’t exactly what anyone expected to see for a player bagged over actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances. Without that issue, however, it’s a questionable deal considering Peralta’s age (32), his faltering defensive range, and his batting average-dependent on-base percentage.

Grantland‘s Jonah Keri has observed he had a “flukish” .374 2013 batting average on balls in play; when his BAbip was 99 points lower a year earlier, Keri notes, Peralta’s overall batting average was .239 and his on-base percentage .303—thirty points below his lifetime average. His modest ability to take walks doesn’t help; his none-too-great speed makes him something of a liability when he does reach base. But Peralta comes cheap in another way: he doesn’t cost the Cardinals a draft pick, and spending dollars rather than forcing itself to deal prize young pitching for critical middle infield help is actually a bargain for the Cardinals right now.

2) To his credit Peralta didn’t offer any reason why he indulged in whatever he indulged; he shook off any room to make excuses; he didn’t talk about his free agency to be and any possible payday he might reasonably expect. But he also didn’t seem to indicate he really understood the position in which he thrust the Tigers, who traded to get Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox because they suspected, at least, that Peralta was going to the deep freeze awhile.

3) Peralta returned in time to help the Tigers in the postseason, and there were surely those who wondered whether the Tigers had learned all that much from, say, the Giants’ experience with Melky Cabrera in 2012. But Cabrera also engaged in confirmed subterfuge in a bid to cover his tracks, embarrassing the Giants even further, surely the compelling reason they refused him postseason participation. The Giants won the World Series without him. The Tigers welcomed Peralta back in part because he’d done nothing of Cabrera’s sort in any bid to cover his hide. Peralta performed usefully enough in the 2013 postseason, all things considered. And it wasn’t enough to help the Tigers reach the World Series.

4) You take seriously such complaints as from Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler, who didn’t mention Peralta by name but didn’t necessarily have to. “It pays to cheat,” he tweeted, almost as soon as the Peralta signing made the news. “Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.” Ziegler followed up with two more, separate tweets. “People really don’t understand how this works. We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it’s not. So we are working on it again,” said one. The followup indicated who “we” might be: “Just trying to make our game better when I leave it than it was when I got into it. Don’t have all the answers, but trying, & MLBPA knows . . .”

5) Then there were separate tweets from veteran free agent reliever David Aardsma. “Apparently getting suspended for PED’s means you get a raise. What’s stopping anyone from doing it?” read the first. “I had 2 major surgeries in 5 months and made it back clean, nothing pisses me off more than guys that cheat and get raises for doing so,” read the second.

Mozey, you got some 'splainin to do?

Mozey, you got some ‘splainin to do?

6) Those and other similar complaints didn’t go unnoticed by Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. “Character and makeup are something we weigh into our decision-making,” ESPN quotes him saying. “In his case, [P]eralta admitted what he did, he took responsibility for it. I feel like he has paid for his mistakes, and obviously if he were to make another one, then it would be a huge disappointment.”

7) Most of us don’t necessarily expect inflated paydays when copping to professional malfeasance. Melky Cabrera faced free agency at the end of 2012; the Giants had made plain enough they had no intention of bringing him back even as a re-signing. He got two years and $16 million. So did Marlon Byrd, a PED suspendee in 2012. Peralta just finished a three-year deal worth $16.25 million. Call the Cabrera and Byrd deals four years at $32 million and Peralta will make almost twice that much over his just-finished deal with his new deal. If you presume what many if not most presume about actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances, then, yes, Peralta is getting a big fat raise for cheating.

8) We once presumed ourselves a society believing unequivocally in second chances. In the past couple of decades, it seems we’ve become one preferring to run miscreants off into oblivion for first offences far less grave than Peralta’s, though that tends too often to depend upon who is the miscreant and what if any vested interest we have in him. Concurrently, we’ve become one who’d let miscreants off the hook for first offences far more grave than Peralta’s. It’s been a cliche long since, but you just might find far less outrage over a fat free agency contract handed an athlete physically attacking his spouse or girl friend.

Cruz---Will Peralta's payday bump another Biogenesis 13 market?

Cruz—Will Peralta’s payday bump another Biogenesis 13 market?

9) It’s wise not to dismiss Ziegler’s and Aardsma’s critiques out of hand. Giving a second chance is one thing, but leaving the impression that baseball, which has caught up to and even surpassed other organised sports in fighting off actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances, can yet neutralise its disciplines against its lawbreakers is something else. Sadly-departed Players Association chief Michael Weiner didn’t move to quash the expressions of, say, Max Scherzer and Skip Schumaker when they spoke in the Biogenesis heat about measures such as contract-voidings for such baseball lawbreakers. Perhaps that’s what Ziegler alluded to when he tweeted that “obviously” a fifty-game deterrent wasn’t quite sufficient. It’s one thing to forgive a first-time offender who’s served his sentence, but it’s something else again to sign him to a big free agency deal that impresses even a few as neutralising a deterrent.

10) By the present system as it is, the Cardinals committed no crime with the Peralta deal. But other than the contract-voiding idea Scherzer and Schumaker raised, there are those players who’ve kicked around such ideas as full-year suspensions for first offences and lifetime bans for seconds; a penalty system based upon who just wants the edge and who used actual or alleged PEDs for other, viable reasons such as health concerns (they’ve been there, whether or not we admit or accept them, though such a system would impose the burdon of proof on the player in question); delaying an offender’s free agency for a year (Peralta might have seen a far different payday if that had been the case for him, of course); compelling a team penalty for signing a past offender. (What sort of penalty—paying into a PED education program? Forfeiting x number of draft picks? Forfeiting x number of free agency signings over the coming off season?)

11) Another of the Biogenesis 13, Nelson Cruz, acknowledged his error as he was suspended, saying he’d gone to Biogenesis on behalf of a gastrointestinal infection that dropped his weight enough to alarm him about his playability. “I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse,” he said.┬áHe’s still on his first free agency market at this writing. At season’s end it was debatable as to what kind of payday he might see. The Peralta deal may have shrunk the margin of debatability considerably.

7 thoughts on “Making sense of the Peralta deal

  1. The Cardinals overpaid for Jhonny Peralta in my estimation, since he never made more than $6 million in a season before. Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, who Peralta is replacing earned a combined $1.1 million in 2013, while Peralta will be earning in the neighborhood of $13 million a season for four years.

    It is difficult to differentiate what Descalso and Kozma hit while playing shortstop, since they both play other positions. Kozma started 113 games at shortstop, while Descalso started 48 games there. The two players combined to hit 6 home runs and drove in 78 runs in 738 at bats. Peralta hit 11 home runs and drove in 55 runs in 409 at bats, so he should be a definite upgrade over Kozma and Descalso, particularly, when considering that Descalso’s and Kozma’s numbers don’t represent only the days that they played shortstop. Peralta may not hit .303 again in 2014, but he will probably hit for a higher average, than the .238 of Descalso and the .217 of Kozma. The Cardinals apparently didn’t want to wait to test the market, so instead made Peralta an offer he couldn’t refuse. Peralta committed only 4 errors in 438 chances at shortstop for the Tigers in 2014, in 106 games so should be able to post decent defensive numbers for the Cardinals. The question is not if Peralta is an upgrade for Cardinals at shortstop, but rather a case if he is worth the money he is being paid for 2014 season.

    • I’m not sure about the rationale for the money in the deal myself; they probably could have gotten Peralta for quite a bit less. I didn’t notice anyone else thronging to sign Peralta to any overwhelming level, so it’s entirely possible the Cardinals were bidding against themselves in this case.

      Believe it or not, Daniel Descalso has played far more games at third base than shortstop in his career thus far. But if you call them left-side-of-the-infielders, Peralta at the plate is a pronounced upgrade on both. He’ll hit better than Descalso and Kozma combined, but how much better do you have to hit to hit better than those two guys? I really think Peralta’s a stopgap for the Cardinals while they develop a better younger shortstop or find an impossible-to-refuse deal by the end of Peralta’s deal, a deal that might not cost them the young pitching such a deal probably would have cost them now. (That may be the most compelling reason they had to pounce on Peralta—they could have gotten a younger Stephen Drew, who’s a far better glove man, but it would have cost them one of the draft picks the Cardinals prize so much with their development system. Peralta in that sense, as I said, came cheap.)

      Peralta wasn’t error prone by any means last season, but his range has dissipated considerably since he first signed with the Tigers, and with Jose Iglesias having shown he’s a far better defender at shortstop, not to mention being a decade younger, it’s more obvious that the Tigers upgraded in the middle infield than it will be about the Cardinals. Peralta’s a professional by now—not much more, not much less. He’ll hold the fort for four years unless he breaks down at some point, and it’ll let the Cardinals develop a shortstop-to-be, at least.

      • I agree 100 percent about the Cardinals bidding against themselves. There are 14 free agent shortstops that are unsigned. Eight of them are 35 or over. The six younger than 35 are Stephen Drew, Robert Andino, Alexi Casilla, Luis Cruz, Munenori Kawasaki and Cesar Izturis. Some of those under 35 may even have problems being signed by any team.

        Looking at that list helps me understand the Cardinals signing of Peralta, because none of the others are considered power hitters.

        Peralta may not have had many errors, because he wasn’t getting to that many balls, so going by errors alone doesn’t always give a true picture of how good a shortstop is. The Cardinals could use an upgrade at third base too, since Descalso is not the kind that is going to help much offensively.

        • The Cardinals have an upgrade at third—they’re going to slide Matt Carpenter (a third baseman by trade) over to third now that they traded David Freese to the Angels.

          Until the Peralta deal, the Cardinals might have thought most heavily about Stephen Drew because he’s a better defender than either Kozma or Descalso, not to mention being a little better hitter. But if they’d signed him it would have cost them the draft pick. Peralta didn’t have that draft pick loss attached to him. Drew could still be re-upped by the Red Sox but if he isn’t his glove skill makes him attractive to a defense-minded team, and his bat isn’t always be a liability even if it took him until Game Six of the World Series for his bat to wake up in the postseason. If he can stay as healthy as he generally did in 2013 he’s a good low-cost signing. Though from the look of things this minute the Dodgers seem to have eyes for him.

          Speaking of the World Series, I’m still a little dumbfounded that of all the Cardinals only Matt Holliday reached the seats all set long . . .

          • Had forgotten all about Matt Carpenter sliding over to third base. Still not sure Kolten Wong will be the answer at second base. Cardinals missed having the long ball in the World Series. I figured Adams or Craig would hit one out.

          • If Kolten Wong plays the way he did at triple-A, he’ll be fine at second base. Plus, he puts a little extra speed in the lineup, if you don’t count that tremendous blunder in the World Series. I thought Matt Adams would hit a little more powerfully myself even as effective as the Red Sox pitchers were in the Series. I wasn’t surprised at all that Allen Craig wasn’t much help at bat, even when he was just the DH in Fenway Park he didn’t look at all comfortable at the plate. I applaud him being gamer enough to try, but I really would have advised him to shut it down for the season and get a full period of healing on that foot. You could see it was killing him at the plate.

          • See what you mean about Kolten Wong, who has hit .301 in the minors lifetime and stole 20 bases in 21 tries last year. Best of all he didn’t commit an error with the Cardinals.

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