Jhonny Peralta And The Importance of Four Years

Jhonny Peralta got four years and $52 million from the Cardinals to be their shortstop, or so reports Jon Morosi. That’s the longest contract given to a free agent after a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs — a fact that has made some in the game angry. But that’s only one of the reasons this signing is so interesting.

On it’s face, it’s a perfect signing for the Cardinals. It looked like they needed two things going into the offseason — outfield defense and offense at shortstop — and now they’ve handled their business before turkey day. Over the last three years, Peralta has had the fifth-best stick among shortstops and has been one of ten that have managed to be above league average at the plate. He combines league-average power with league-average plate discipline to be slightly above league average. He’s done most of those things most years of his career, and turning 32 shouldn’t erode those skills immediately even if he’s definitely post-peak.

Those that watch Peralta daily might be surprised that he was signed to be a shortstop. His last team already made a big upgrade defensively at his position, and other teams were rumored to like him as a left fielder. But the Cardinals need a shortstop, and actually Peralta has been top-five among shortstops in defensive value over the last three years. The metrics give players full credit for their positioning, so perhaps Peralta is a triumph of the spray chart. If his new coaching staff can give him as much attention in that regard, maybe what our eyes say about his quickness and athleticism at shortstop will continue to betray us.

Currently, Steamer projects a 1.8 win season from Peralta in 2014. If he plays to that projection, and ages at less than half a win a season, he could easily put up more five to six wins over the life of the contract, and depending on your cost per win (the $5.5 million per value calculated here should inflate, and others have approximated closer to $7m per) he’d be signed for something close to value.

But Steamer projects Peralta for 401 plate appearances. That’s probably because Peralta is over 30 and coming off a season where he only managed 448 plate appearances. Steamer doesn’t care why he only had 448 plate appearances. Many do care, though.

Looking at the list of players that have been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, there are only a handful that got multi-year contracts after a ban. Marlon Byrd just got two years from the Phillies after being busted at 34 years old in 2012. Melky Cabrera got two years from the Blue Jays the offseason after he was suspended, but he was 28 years old. Rafael Betancourt had to be good for a long time after he was suspended in 2005, when as an old reliever, he got two years from the Rockies. Ryan Franklin got two years in a similar situation. Carlos Ruiz just got three years, but that was a stimulant ban in his past. That’s it so far for multi-year contracts to guys with a PED suspension in their history.

Then you have a 31-year-old shortstop who’s put up 11 wins in the last three years, and obviously that’s too tempting for the Cardinals. If he’s a true-talent three-to-four win guy right now, then the contract is close to an unmitigated win. And that’s why this distinction for Peralta may be short-lived. If Yasmani Grandal is as good as advertised, what happens when he’s a free agent? If another above-average player gets busted in the middle of his peak, won’t another team take this type of chance that most of his production was innate?

There’s upside in this contract. Peralta could return to his three-win ways next season and be worth the contract sometime in year three. And shortstop was the obvious place for this team to upgrade, since they have been worst in the National League at shortstop over the last three seasons. There weren’t a lot of options out there at the position — if not Peralta, it would have to be Stephen Drew, who has never had an offensive season as good as Peralta’s better seasons, and who has only been worth 4.8 wins over the last three seasons. With glove-first Pete Kozma still under team control, a bat-first shortstop made the most sense for the Cardinals. There’s a lot of reasons this makes sense for St. Louis.

But pushing it to four years brings in more risk. If not in 2014, will there be a season soon where Peralta’s athletic shortcomings begin to make for bad defensive metrics? Considering that his second- and third-best offensive seasons have come in the last two years, isn’t it also fair to worry that some of those numbers were inflated by the same performance-enhancing drugs that just got him in trouble? Perhaps, in 2017, bat-first super utility players will be worth $10 million and it won’t hurt the Cardinals so much. But it sure would feel like less of a risk if this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


102 Responses to “Jhonny Peralta And The Importance of Four Years”

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  1. JG says:

    Little confused about the takeaway here. If the point is that it’s noteworthy for someone with a prior PED suspension to get a 4 year contract, then I get it. But if the point is that it’s riskier, my view is that the fourth year is less about actually expecting Peralta to produce at this level for 4 years as it is about filling a hole at SS for as long as they can. The fourth year was the premium they paid to get him at what seems to be a fairly reasonable AAV that shouldn’t preclude them from making other moves (this isn’t the Mets we’re talking about ). A good team with a solid farm system like the Cards will presumably know to cut back his playing time if he can’t hack it in four years.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I think it’s a combo factor. If it’s just a risk about giving a PED guy four years, then four years is riskier than three. If it’s just about defense, same. If it’s just about missed time, same. So, given all these risk factors, four is riskier. And there are probably… four risk factors?

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  2. Joel says:

    I had the Cardinals pegged to give Drew 4/50. so right contract, wrong player.

    It has to be about the draft pick, right?

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    • paperlions says:

      …and agent. Boras loves to slow play his guys. It would be risky to wait around for Drew/Boras to make a decision and to miss out on both guys.

      I’m sure they have already evaluated the cost in talent of SS trade targets and decided that they would rather overpay in FA than in trade….which makes Peralta the best target for them without a close second.

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    • Colin says:

      Draft pick aside, if you look at the numbers, Peralta is the more valuable player and probably the less risky player. He gets injured less and has consistently been more valuable than Drew, even last season, which was Drew’s most valuable season for a while.

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    • Vaugnads says:

      Drew pros – #1 can play SS #2 can hit above .200 #3 didn’t use PEDs
      Cons – #1 give up 31st pick in the draft #2 agent #3 can’t hit LH pitching #4 injury prone #5 can only play
      SS #6 modest improvement defensively and most likely offensively #7 related to J.D. #8 agent
      Peralta pros – #1 we don’t overpay drew to be injured #2 can play SS #3 big improvement offensively, PEDs or
      not #4 hits LH pitching #5 versatility (can play 3b or OF if there’s an injury) #6 don’t have to deal
      with Boras #7 retain our draft pick (which will prob. be higher than 31st after free agent signing)
      #8 Not related to J.D.
      Cons – #1 Used PEDs #2 not as good defensively, mainly range #3 length of contract (will they still try
      to get Hardy or Cabrera in the ’15 free agency)
      Just my 2 cents

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  3. Uncle Randy says:

    Man, Brad Zieglers twitter background is AWCE.

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  4. Magneto says:

    Well Peralta is better than Drew (Offensively and defensively), plus he’s a right handed hitter (While Drew is a left handed hitter) and with the Cardinals struggles against left handed pitchers, Peralta also makes sense there too. Losing a draft pick is just the icing on the cake

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  5. wobatus says:

    I didnt realize how consistently good Ziegler has been the last few years.

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    • danny c says:

      Brad Ziegler is a typical holier than thou right wing loony. He is worried about Peralta getting busted one time in his life yet he unabashedly voted TWICE! for a person who led us into an unneeded war and resided over the largest economic meltdown in generations (which we are still climbing out of both). I realize this is a baseball site but hypocrites like Zeigler make me sick!

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      • bdhudson says:

        How fun for you.

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      • Wobatus says:

        Well, he is a bit of a righty specialist, nyuck nyuck, although he’s improved against lefties.

        I was speaking more about his high groundball percentage (1st among relievers over the last 3 years, 2nd over 6 years), and the fact his ERA is below his FIP and XFIP each of the last 6 years. In fact over the last 3 years he is 1st in gb%, 12th in ERA and 13th in innings pitched among relievers. Over the last 6 years he is 2nd in GB%, 12th in ERA and 6th in innings pitched.

        He’s a really good reliever.

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      • JamesDaBear says:

        He’s the union rep for his team. He’s earned the right to comment on this situation and will be a part about any solution that comes from this situation. His political affiliation is irrelevant.

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  6. japem says:

    I think this was an overpay: Peralta’s put up two above-average offensive seasons in the past 5 years, he’s going into his age-32 season and the deal will carry him through age 36, he’s a pretty bad baserunner (his -UBR is higher than his wRAA for his career), and we don’t know how much of his production in the past came from PED usage.

    Not saying the Cardinals had a better option, but I think that was too much money.

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    • Brian says:

      Maybe too much money in sheer $/WAR terms, but given that it’s a sellers’ market for shortstops, and b/c the Cards have no better options, and b/c they have a lot of $$ (from expiring contracts, Beltran leaving, a roster of inexpensive young players, etc.), it seems like a very sensible “overpay.”

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      • Baltar says:

        Both of you make good points. Steamer projects 2.7 WAR at 535 PA. That WAR figure looks low to me. However, you figure it, the Cardinals certainly didn’t get a bargain, but at their level 2-3 wins above Kozma is worth a lot.

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    • Ryan Sturm says:

      The deal will carry him through age 35 (every year starts to matter around here) and is front loaded to pay him when he will be performing best (ideally). I think he got more than what was initially expected bc of PED use. If he hadn’t been busted last year, i think he would have cost 12-15/ yr for 3-4 yrs anyway

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  7. Danny Knobgobbler says:

    This signing could also illuminate the flip side of having a massive store of cheap, young, controlled players; namely that entering the trade market to address areas of weakness such as this are likely met with ridiculous demands for said players. One could argue that the Cards had more leverage with the Bourjos trade, given that they have Jay and Taveras to fall back on. Not so with the shortstop position.

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    • Joel says:

      Shortstop is such a position of scarcity that teams rarely trade good ones. Elvis Andrus is the only one reportedly available, and he’s due over $120 million in his extension.

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  8. carp4prez says:

    How does the lineup look everyday?

    1. Carpenter 3B
    2. Peralta SS
    3. Holliday LF
    4. Craig RF
    5. Adams 1B
    6. Molina C
    7. Wong 2B
    8. Bourjos CF

    That looks pretty freaking good.

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    • Dan says:

      Peralta in the 2 hole? He’s far better suited at the bottom of the lineup. Don’t think he ever hit higher than 5th or 6th for Detroit. He doesn’t have a high OBP and is very slow on the bases. You’d much rather have Burjos at the top of the lineup that Peralta.

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      • carp4prez says:

        Bourjos doesn’t get on base a ton either. Maybe flip Peralta and Yadi?

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          I’d bat Carp second. Dude’s pretty much the prototypical 2 hitter.

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        • carp4prez says:

          I think Carp stays leading off, get him as many at bats as possible. He was a great leadoff hitter last year

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        • cardinalswsbound says:

          Plus, with his lack of HR power, it makes him a very ideal leadoff hitter

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        • BirdoInBoston says:

          I think you hit Craig second and Holliday third…

          very good problem to have to “have to” hit Allen Craig in the two hole…

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        • Vaugnads says:

          @ cool Lester smooth – I agree totally. The way Carp was hitting doubles in his first full year, I think his power numbers are only going to go up. Putting our newly found speed at the bottom of the order is a waste! Bourjos or Wong first then Carp. I think/hope Wong will get the job done. Think about it, Wong walks or infield single then steals second while Carp is racking up the pitch count then gets a double to bring home Wong. Gotta utilize that speed at the top of the order. And to think no one is even talking about Taveras in the lineup, that’s saying something about this lineup however it pans out.

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        • MustBunique says:

          Actually, having speed at the bottom of the lineup has some real benefits. Usually your weaker hitters are at the bottom of the lineup, and they would benefit most from the extra bases a speedster ahead of them may be able to generate. For this specific scenario, Bourjos 7 Wong 8 would help Wong’s relative (to the 1-6 batters) inability to get XBH through Bourjos’s ability to take extra bases. A single by Wong will be more likely drive in Bourjos than say Molina.

          Also, I like what carp4prez said above: what about Molina in the 2 hole? Good OBP, and base clogging is a myth.

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        • CardinalRules says:

          Hit pitcher 8, Bourjos 9?

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      • candomarty says:

        The key phrase in your post is “for Detroit.” The Cardinals’ lineup isn’t set up the same as the Tigers’ and there is no DH, so that makes Peralta’s previous order in the lineup a bit irrelevant, IMHO.

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    • Joe says:

      I live in a dream world where Piscotty gets moved back to 3B, which isn’t implausible considering he’s blocked long-term by Taveras, Craig, Adams, and Holliday at the other corners.
      My preferred long-term lineup is:

      Carpenter 2B
      Piscotty 3B
      Holliday LF
      Craig 1B
      Molina C
      Taveras RF
      Peralta SS
      Bourjos CF

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    • Jeffrey says:

      I think you are more likely to see

      1. Carpenter
      2. Holliday
      3. Craig
      4. Adams
      5. Molina
      6. Peralta
      7. Bourjos/jay
      8. Wong

      With the added possibility that ot does break camp with the team.

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      • stan says:

        No way Holliday hits second. I’d say we’re going to see:
        Carpenter
        Craig
        Holliday
        Adams
        Molina
        Peralta
        Wong
        Bourjos/ Jay

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        • semperty says:

          I would say this is the most likely outcome of the options I’ve seen so far. Craig’s lack of HR power makes him a pretty big candidate to hit 2nd, especially with Carp’s double machine up top. Still gives Craig lots of PA wRISP that old school manager loves and smart move that stat heads appreciate.

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        • Vaugnads says:

          No way Craig hits second. Why would you put our best RBI guy batting second? I agree with you on batting Holliday second, but then you come up with Craig batting second? The more ducks on the pond the better, so he will bat cleanup (if healthy)

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      • Kevin says:

        Jeffrey says:

        November 25, 2013 at 12:27 am

        I think you are more likely to see

        1. Carpenter
        2. Holliday
        3. Craig
        4. Adams
        5. Molina
        6. Peralta
        7. Bourjos/jay
        8. Wong

        With the added possibility that ot does break camp with the team.

        ***I think that it’ll almost EXACTLY be that only I bet Craig’s 2nd & Holliday 3rd.

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    • jvetter says:

      Might be a lineup they try early in the season but I think Wong or Bourjos end up in the lead off spot with Carpenter #2 and Peralta towards the bottom.

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    • Ryan Sturm says:

      I like…

      1Bourjos
      2Carpenter
      3Holliday
      4Craig
      5Adams
      6Molina
      7Peralta
      8Wong

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  9. jdbolick says:

    What should be made of the disconnect between the defensive numbers and the eye test? The contract seems fair, but could still be unwise given the team’s other salary commitments. It’s interesting that Detroit wouldn’t offer him the qualifying offer in light of what he eventually signed for. I also can’t figure out why the Cardinals let go of Ryan Jackson. Maybe he is a Quadruple-A player, but his numbers at Memphis make him look competent offensively and he has a reputation for good glovework.

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    • gnomez says:

      Letting Jackson go makes no sense to me either: he’s better than Kozma in every aspect of his game.

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    • semperty says:

      The Cardinals pick certain players they will try until it’s impossible to justify, and let others go from similar positions to justify it. In the mid-2000s it was Tyler Greene (where they let Brendan Ryan go to make sure he could start) and now it’s Kozma. Hopefully Peralta spells the end of the Kozma era, and I never have to see him get more than 100 PA in a season.

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    • JeremyR says:

      Jackson never really got much of a chance. But he never made a positive impression with the little chance he got. Either with the glove or with the bat.

      Tyler Greene 2.0

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  10. Colin says:

    I’ve been pointing out Peralta’s UZR at SS a lot lately because people like to insist he’s a well below average SS. He may not be quick or get to tough balls but he positions himself well and almost never makes a mistake on balls he can get to, which itself has good value.

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    • Detroit Michael says:

      Despite the fact that Fangraphs’ WAR calculation uses UZR, Defensive Runs Saved or DRS is generally regarded as a more accurate metric. Worth noting that Peralta’s UZR over 2011-13 is 25 runs above average but his DRS is 1 run above average over the same period.

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      • Colin says:

        I wouldn’t go as far as to say “generally regarded as more accurate.” Point still stands, he isn’t a ‘bad’ SS like people would have others believe.

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        • Detroit Michael says:

          MGL (Mitchell Lichtman), the guy behind UZR, has written that DRS is more accuate. That’s good enough for me.

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  11. jim S. says:

    I watched virtually all of Detroit’s games (MLBAM condensed games) before Peralta was suspended, which means I saw virtually all the difficult plays he had to make this season. And in my opinion, he is considerable worse than his defensive metrics. And WAY worse than Drew, Magneto. The Cardinals are probably going to have to keep Kozma around as a late-inning defensive replacement. Don’t be surprised if Peralta eventually moves to third. The Cards are a bright group, but I think this is a bad signing.

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    • chuckb says:

      So you also watched all the games played by all the other teams as well? You’d need to in order for the “eye-test” to have much meaning at all.

      On the other hand, your “eye-test” is probably much more accurate than UZR.

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  12. APODionysus says:

    Eno, you either made a slight mistake when you said

    “They were worst in the National League at shortstop last season.”

    The data in your link covers 2011-2013 and indeed has the Cards as worst. However, in 2013 alone the Marlins were worst (the Adeiny Hechavarria experience, ladies and gentlemen).

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Gotta say, Kozma was actually worse offensively, and I’m not sure how much I trust Adeiny’s defensive stats; he’s supposed to be an Iglesias/Simmons/Alcides-level stud out there.

      Obviously, the difference between being a -1 WAR player and a -2 WAR player isn’t much, but it is a difference.

      I think Kozma’s worse than Adeiny, at least going forward.

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      • Since when is alcides in the Iglesias level and since when is anyone in e Simmons level?

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        • tz says:

          The levels should look like this:

          Simmons
          Iglesias
          B.Ryan
          Alcides
          Other good SS

          Strange as it sounds, I think one of the safest comments you can make is that Alcides Escobar is the 4-th best defensive SS in the game right now. Which is actually a compliment considering the three above him.

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        • I wasn’t saying alcides isn’t really good. Simmons is like Zeppelin, Iglesias and Ryan are like Sabbath, alcides is like Bad Company. No shame, but not the same level.

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  13. coldseat says:

    If put into context (ie what are the other options available) this is not a bad deal for the cards. They can afford it, doesn’t cost a draft pick, keep shelby miller….what’s not to like, besides the self important satisfaction of declaring, “overpay.” The 2015 free agent class looks just as bad.

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  14. ML says:

    Says alt about how crappy the shortstop position is.

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  15. Xeifrank says:

    A good example of why a teams with more 0 WAR starting players has more flexibility than those that don’t. Chalk one up for the, I’ll take the team with more roster flexibility please.

    In other words, I will take the 6+0 over the 3+3 given the resources to make improvements.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Exactly. A 6 WAR player is much more valuable than 2 3 WAR players.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      what’s the point of posting this comment here, xei?

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        it doesn’t even make sense in this situation. Peralta is a 3 WAR SS and he got exactly what 3 WAR SS’s get in the FA market.

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        • Simon says:

          It does make sense, because the Cardinals got a 3 win upgrade because they had a zero at shortstop before. Most contenders can’t improve by three wins just by signing a three win player, as they don’t have many black holes to fill.

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        • Los says:

          But they can trade a cost controlled 3win player for a 6 win player and pay for the extra production that way. For example, lets assume that the cardinals had a cost controlled 3 win shortstop, they could always trade that player to Colorado for Tulowitski and take his contract. By taking the contract, they are buying the extra 3 wins the same way they are doing on the free agent market. Every teams has holes that can be upgraded. Star and scrubs can lead to upgradeable parts but it can also lead to the 2013 Brewers.

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        • coldseat says:

          Because we all know that colo will give up Tulo for whatever fits your smart 6 war gain senario. Keith Law thinking – compare real deals v. His imaginary deals —> real life GM’s are all dumber than he is.

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  16. Loop D says:

    Cards got fleeced. Non PED Jhonny Peralta is just not that good. 36 year old Jhonny Peralta will also not be good. Nobody mentions that .378 BABIP last year. Bad deal.

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    • Brian says:

      I’m sure the Cards are aware they’ll be overpaying the last couple years of this deal, but they have a window to win now, and all the other alternatives at SS look much worse. What do you propose they do instead? Sign Drew (a LH with a worse track record and less durability) and lose a draft pick? Trade for Hardy (and fork over a good young player)? Trade for Aybar (supposedly there was no deal there) or Andrus (ditto)? I think this looks like a bad deal in a vacuum, but in this sellers’ market for shortstops it seems to me justified.

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    • salvo says:

      36 year old Jhonny Peralta will also not be good.

      The Cardinals don’t care–he turns 35 two months into the last year of the contract.

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    • Vaugnads says:

      Nobody mentioned it because its more of a red flag for a pitcher than a hitter. Non PED Peralta is better than PED Kozma (offensively speaking) Good deal.

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  17. Johnny says:

    Very strange deal by the Cardinals. He’s entering his decline years and the production was likely because of PEDs. Very Very odd.

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  18. Brandon Phillips says:

    And you cats think my contract looks ugly? Sheesh. Whiney bitches are gonna regret this one soon….

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  19. james wilson says:

    Who is to say that Peralta is going to stop using? Nobody gets caught for using, they get caught for not following the masking regime. I sincerely apologize to my team for getting caught and promise not to do it again!

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  20. Nick Franklin says:

    My name is Nick Franklin, and I am a professional baseball player. Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids. Period.

    Seriously, where did my name come from?

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  21. schneidler says:

    Doesn’t Mike Morse have a PED suspension in his past? I haven’t looked it up but I would think he has signed a multi-year deal at some point since then.

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  22. I don’t mind is signing. He can move around the diamond in his later years. Surely the Cards will develop a strong SS by then and maybe even trade Peralta after year 3 for a few solid prospects. This is a “win now” move that really doesn’t cost them the future. They make a lot or money. Their tv media market is huge (look at their territory map, not how big STL is) and they have a too 5 attendance.

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    • semperty says:

      They’ve already got a SS they’ve developing, so hopefully he’s ready by the time Peralta hits the back end of this contract (which I think Mo is expecting). The Cardinals also play in a bottom 10 market. This isn’t about the TV market (though they do have a pretty bad deal), but their market in general puts them in contention for compensatory draft picks.

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      • How do they play in a bottom 10 market? Their tv coverage touches 10 different states and they’re wildly popular. Who’s the SS by the way? I live in Springfield and watch a lot of their AA games.

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        • salvo says:

          Possibly that’s in terms of metro area population combined with actual TV/radio revenues—regardless of how many states get a signal.

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  23. Luke says:

    With few other options out there and a rich farm system, I’m okay with this. I hate seeing the club “throw away” 50M, but if its to retain draft picks for a midseason trade to cover 2nd/3rd, I’m fine with it. Then again as a Cards fan, I’ve been used to letdowns at SS for 20 years.

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  24. stan says:

    Peralta never tested positive for anything, btw. I get that he was banned for good reason, but the fact that he never tested positive makes him less of a risk, IMHO. Biogenesis has been closed for more than a year and we don’t even know when he was a customer. It could very well have been before testing started. i.e., his recent resurgence with Detroit seems less like a steroid illusion.

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  25. Baltar says:

    I congratulate the Cardinals. The additions of Bourjos and Peralta this early really solidifies their team. They have already had a good offseason and anything more is gravy.

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  26. Nats3256 says:

    When I run MLB….if you are + for PED, you are not allowed to play in the post season that year. And the next season your contract is league minimum.

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