COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals concluded a very busy weekend by making a splash in the free-agent market.
The Cardinals solved their issue at the shortstop position by signing free agent Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million contract.
The deal has been met with enthusiasm and skeptics alike. General manager John Mozeliak's aggressive pursuit of Peralta is a bit out of character and highlights the urgency the Cardinals identified at the shortstop position. The Cardinals have avoided dealing with free agents in the open market recently. Bringing in Peralta is not marking a change in organizational philosophy necessarily, but it is a subtle difference from how the Cardinals usually do business.
So was this a good move for the Cardinals? Does Peralta solve the Cardinals' problems at the shortstop position? Does the move give St. Louis a long-term solution to play shortstop behind the franchise's talented, young pitching staff for years to come?
Here is a look at the pros and cons of bringing Peralta to St. Louis:
Pro: Peralta is a plus hitter at the offensively challenged shortstop position. Peralta hit .303 with a .815 OPS in 2013. He clubbed 11 home runs and knocked in 55 RBIs in just 107 games. Peralta is obviously a talented offensive player and is a drastic upgrade over Pete Kozma.
Con: Peralta has been inconsistent over the past several seasons at the plate. While 2013 was stellar, Peralta has been a roller coaster throughout his career. In three of the past five seasons, Peralta has posted a .710 OPS or lower and just two seasons ago in 2012, the veteran hit just .239 with a .689 OPS in 150 games. That is not $13 million-per-year production.
Pro: Peralta can also play third base, giving the Cardinals position flexibility in the future. Peralta has appeared in more than 100 games at third base twice in his career already and if the need arises because of injury or an additional future acquisition, Peralta could seamlessly slide over to the hot corner.
Con: How long will Peralta be able to actually play the shortstop position? Peralta is not a small man at 215 pounds and most large shortstops transition to different positions as they get older. Peralta is not getting younger and will turn 32 in May of 2014. The Cardinals are risking that Peralta will be able to maintain his already average range defensively throughout the four years of this contract.
Pro: The Cardinals did not give up any of their highly touted pitching prospects to find a shortstop. The Cardinals are flush with young pitching and did not have to sacrifice a single pitching stud to find a shortstop solution. The Cardinals figure to be contenders for years to come because of names like Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller.
Con: The Cardinals likely overpaid for Peralta. Peralta has averaged 15 home runs and 73 RBIs over the past five seasons. Meanwhile, the Cardinals just traded away David Freese, who has a 162-game average of 15 home runs and 82 RBIs over his five-year career. Peralta plays a more important position defensively, but the offensive production is very similar and Freese is expected to make less than $5 million in 2014.
Pro: Peralta has been amazingly durable throughout his career. Since becoming a full-time player in 2005, Peralta has played 140 games or more in every year but one. That season came in 2013, when he missed 50 games due to his PED suspension. Nonetheless, Peralta has proven that he can stay healthy and while he will certainly lose a few steps as he ages, the Cardinals can count on him being on the field the next four seasons.
Con: Peralta has missed 50 games due to a PED suspension. Peralta has a reputation of being a good guy and a great teammate. But he has made the mistake before of getting caught and tangled with PEDs and if he slips up again, it would cost his teammates and the Cardinals 100 games without his services.
Mozeliak and the Cardinals are taking quite a risk by bringing in Peralta. Signing him certainly upgrades the offensive production at shortstop while giving away a little bit of defense. The Cardinals also managed to keep all of their prospects.
But asking Peralta to produce enough at the plate to justify the $53 million the Cardinals will pay him over the next four years is asking a lot. His inconsistencies in the past, along with the likely decline in his defense, make this a risk that has a greater chance of failing then paying off.
But if Peralta does produce, the Cardinals have instantly made themselves top contenders once again in 2014.
Corey Rudd is owner/editor of StlSportsMinute.com and co-host of Fan Interference on CBS Sports 920 AM in St. Louis. Rudd writes about the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams and Missouri Tigers football team as a contributor for Yahoo Sports. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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