Cardinals sign Peralta to play shortstop, draw ire of major-league players

News-DemocratNovember 24, 2013 

— Major-league players were outspoken in their criticism of the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night after the team finalized a four-year, $53 million contract with free agent Jhonny Peralta.

The Cardinals intend for Peralta, 31, to take over as their new shortstop, replacing Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso.

Peralta, who batted .303 with 30 doubles, 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 107 games with the Detroit Tigers, served a 50-game PED suspension in August and September and has been linked with the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Florida.

"We are pleased to announce that Jhonny has agreed to terms and I know he is equally excited to be joining the Cardinals," St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak said in a statement released by the ballclub.

"Jhonny is among the game's top offensive shortstops," Mozeliak continued. "He's a steady defender and he has experience playing for a contender. He gives us proven veteran experience and brings balance and versatility to our everyday lineup."

Big-league pitchers Brad Ziegler, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and David Aardsma, a free agent, weren't quite as pleased.

"It pays to cheat... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use," Ziegler wrote on Twitter.

Ziegler, the Diamondbacks' player rep, had more to say.

"People really don't understand how this works," he wrote on Twitter. "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously, it's not. We are working on it again."

And this, on Twitter, from Aardsma: "Apparently getting suspended for PEDs means you get a raise. What's stopping anyone from doing it? #weneedtomakeachange."

Mozeliak is expected to address reactions like those of Ziegler and Aardsma when the Cardinals conduct a news conference at 10 a.m. Monday at Busch Stadium.

Peralta acknowledged his mistake for using PEDs, but clearly, not everyone has been forgiving of the two-time American League All-Star. Even his former Tigers teammates initially were stand-offish when Peralta returned from his suspension.

The Cardinals have been trying to lock down a shortstop since the end of the season, with several names being bandied about.

However, since Peralta was a free agent, the Cardinals were able to acquire him without surrendering any of their coveted young pitchers, whom most teams were inquiring about in trade discussions early this offseason.

Closer Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez apparently will be staying put, pending other possible deals the Cardinals might explore at the winter meetings in two weeks in Orlando, Fla.

Peralta represented a better option than free agent Stephen Drew because he bats right-handed. Drew is a left-handed hitter, and the Cardinals already have lefty swingers at third base (Matt Carpenter), second base (Kolten Wong) and first base (Matt Adams).

Peralta, who also can play third base and left field, has a .268 career average with 156 home runs, including a personal-best 24 in 2005 with the Cleveland Indians. Peralta has knocked in 78 or more runs in five seasons, with his career-high of 89 coming in 2008 with Cleveland.

Peralta could bat second in the Cardinals order behind Carpenter. That would enable rookie Wong to ease into his first season in the seventh or eighth spot.

If the Cardinals prefer speed near the top of the order, they could use recently acquired center fielder Peter Bourjos in the No. 2 spot.

But Bourjos, acquired with minor-league outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas, has a paltry .306 career on-base percentage. He stole 22 bases this season.

Peralta figures to help against left-handed pitching. He batted .352 with a .404 on-base percentage and a .560 slugging percentage against lefties, against whom the Cardinals were 19-23. They batted just .238 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .371 slugging percentage against left-handers.

On defense, Peralta lacks the range of Kozma. But his hands are solid and his arm is strong and accurate.

Peralta returned from his PED suspension for the final three games of the regular season, then played in 10 of the Tigers' 11 postseason games. He batted .333 in the playoffs (11-for-33) with four doubles, one home run and six RBIs. Detroit was eliminated by Boston in the American League championship series.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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