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Numbers Game: Cardinals take a chance on Peralta

Scott Cullen
11/25/2013 9:41:54 PM
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The St. Louis Cardinals had a major need at shortstop and signed a veteran free agent who, while having PED issues, has been a potent hitter throughout his career.

Numbers Game looks at the Cardinals' addition of Jhonny Peralta.

The Cardinals Get: SS Jhonny Peralta.

Peralta, 31, has been one of the more productive shortstops in baseball since sticking as a regular in 2005. From that point, Peralta has slugged 152 home runs, behind only Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy and Troy Tulowitzki in that span, and Peralta's cumulative fWAR of 23.0 ranks seventh at the position since 2005. More recently, Peralta has a fWAR of 11.0 over the last three seasons, which ranks fourth among shortstops.

So, we've established that Peralta can hit the ball, but he deserves credit for fielding too. Earlier in his career, with Cleveland, Peralta typically had a negative Defensive Runs Saved and negative Ultimate Zone Rating, indications that his glovework -- and especially his range -- weren't necessarily up to snuff. However, while Peralta isn't a Gold Glove candidate, he's fared significantly better in Detroit and does have a strong arm, so he doesn't pose an immediate problem in the field. He is on the north side of 30, though, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if his range becomes an issue.

The main concern with Peralta is how his 2013 season was sideswiped by a 50-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs. He did hit a career-high .303 in 2013, before getting suspended, with an .815 OPS that was the third-highest of his career (following a .689 OPS in 2012, his lowest in a full MLB season), so it's fair to wonder whether Peralta will be as productive if he's clean. It would probably be reasonable to assume that he won't be as productive.

Nevertheless, even if Peralta isn't likely to duplicate his 2013 season for the next four years, he should be an upgrade on punchless Pete Kozma at shortstop for the Cardinals. St. Louis shortstops had an OPS of .583 last season, ranking 28th, so anything resembling competent offensive play would represent an upgrade.

Peralta has fared well against the National League throughout his career, hitting .301 with an .856 OPS in 156 career Inter-League games.

The Tigers reacted quickly when Peralta was suspended last summer, dealing for slick-fielding Jose Iglesias, who doesn't have Peralta's bat, but is much better in the field.

Peralta is signed for four years and $52-million, significant money even for a starting shortstop, particularly because of the risk that, by the end of this deal, Peralta either may not be able to play shortstop or he may simply be a liability in the field. If his bat happens to slow down at the same time, the Cardinals could really regret the length of the contract, but it's easy to see the appeal in adding a middle infielder who has pop in his bat, particularly when contrasted with the relative lack of offence that the Cardinals received from their shortstops last season.

If Peralta happens to hit 12-15 home runs per season and turns out to be worth 8-10 wins total over the next four years, then he's probably fulfilled his side of the deal. If he's not capable of doing that clean, then the Cardinals are going to regret rolling the dice on a player caught using performance-enhancing drugs in 2013.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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