The Tigers already re-signed third baseman Brandon Inge earlier this offseason and it appears they have completed the left side of the infield by re-signing Jhonny Peralta. The league leader in typos, Peralta will play shortstop in 2011 and presumably 2012 at the cost of roughly $11 million.
Shopping for a shortstop on the open market is an impossible feat. The free agent market holds few worthwhile options, with J.J. Hardy and Juan Uribe sticking out as most plausible. The trade market is unlikely to bear fruits either, with Jason Bartlett potentially being the breadwinner. Peralta has the arm to play shortstop and make the difficult throws. He does not have the desired range for the position, but his bat comes correct.
Peralta’s .260/.319/.414 slash line over the past three seasons appears behemoth compared to the American League shortstops 2010 production of .258/.312/.357. Driven in large part because of his bat and positions, Peralta’s recent history is graced with WAR totals of 1.4, 1.2, and 3.9. A napkin projection based on weighted averages has Peralta worth about two wins next season. If that happens, Peralta would be underpaid. He turns 29 in late May and the contract expires before the projected erosion of offensive skills. What the deal lacks in longevity may manifest itself in an improved work ethic from Peralta in keeping his anything-but-svelte build in check.
The length works well for the organizational depth chart too. The Tigers just traded Brent Dlugach last week and each of the Tigers’ prospects at the position have question marks and levels blockading them from the majors for at least another season. Daniel Fields performed modestly for a 19-year-old in High-A. Gustavo Nunez turns 23 early next year, but he’s yet to hit anywhere really outside of his 2009 campaign in Western Michigan. Cale Iorg is the closest to the majors and a defensive stud. But Iorg has struggled to hit in the upper minors, producing a .217/.262/.337 line over two seasons at Double-A Erie.
The only man in the organization who has the right to hold beef with this deal is Ramon Santiago. He’s hit .268/.344/.371 since 2008 while playing better defense at short than Peralta. One thing worth watching between these two is a potential platoon. Santiago is a switch hitter who has feasted upon lefties the past few seasons while struggling with righties. Peralta is a righty with a better wOBA against righties in two of the past three seasons than versus lefties. One could also argue about the value of having Santiago free to play second base or other positions if needed, and if the plan is to have Santiago start at second base, then what does Scott Sizemore have to do to get a chance?
Free agency is a little over 24 hours old and the Tigers have their infield intact. Most accounts have them pursuing marquee names like Victor Martinez and Carl Crawford. Who knows how that works out, but nothing they’ve done so far this offseason suggests that competing for a division crown in 2011 is a pipe dream.