ST. LOUIS — As far as St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak is concerned, Jhonny Peralta has a clean slate.
Mozeliak met with the media Monday morning at Busch Stadium to discuss the four-year, $53-million contract Peralta signed Sunday night to play shortstop for the Cardinals through 2017.
Peralta, 31, served a 50-game suspension late this season for PED use, a violation Mozeliak said took place in 2012.
"There's always concerns," Mozeliak said of Peralta's connection with PEDs and the Biogenesis clinic in Florida. "When you think about what you're trying to build, there are a lot of things that factor in to how you put a club together. Character and makeup are something that we weigh into our decision-making.
"But I think in his case, he admitted what he did. He took responsibility for it. At this point in the game, there's nothing that says he can't go play or isn't free to go sign with some other club. I don't think it's the Cardinals' responsibility, necessarily, to be the morale police on potentially future employment."
Peralta, who was unable to attend the press conference, batted .303 with 30 doubles, 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 107 games this season with the Detroit Tigers. He is a career .268 hitter with 156 homers and 698 RBIs in 1,383 games.
Peralta will take over at shortstop for Pete Kozma, a superior defender who batted just .217 with one home run this season.
"The shortstop market was one that was not deep in free agents," Mozeliak said. "For us, it was focusing on someone who could hit from the right side, somebody that was a steady defensive player, someone that had experience and could fit right in.
"We certainly explored the trade market at many levels, trying to see what we could do there. But the acquisition cost just seemed to be very preventative for us to move forward with that."
Two major-league pitchers, Brad Ziegler of the Arizona Diamondbacks and free agent David Aardsma, were critical of the Peralta signing on Twitter.
Ziegler, the Diamondbacks' player representative who is from Odessa, Mo., was particularly miffed.
"It pays to cheat. ... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use," he wrote on Twitter.
Ziegler also wrote: "People really don't understand how this works. We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously, it's not. We are working on it again."
Aardsma's Tweet read: "Apparently getting suspended for PEDs means you get a raise. What's stopping anyone from doing it? #weneedtomakeachange."
Mozeliak understood the players' comments.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinions," Mozeliak said, suggesting there could be stiffer PED penalties in the future.
"If the Players Association wants to see stronger penalties, I don't think anybody in Major League Baseball is going to prevent that," he said. "This is something that's negotiated. The last basic agreement, this is what was agreed upon. I would imagine if the players as a whole want to see change, they'll probably get it."
Mozeliak met with Peralta on Sunday when Peralta completed his physical. He said the deal came togther rapidly Friday night and Saturday morning.
Mozeliak said he understands the risks associated with signing Peralta, a two-time American League All-Star.
"I feel like he has paid for his mistakes," Mozeliak said. "If he were to make another one, then it would be a huge disappointment and I would certainly be weighing in with everyone else that feels like penalties should be harder, because you do need a deterrent.
"Right now, 50 games does not seem to be necessarily stopping it. But I do think it's changed. I do think Major League Baseball's done a great job trying to clean up this game and I feel like they've taken great steps to do so."
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday has been outspoken of his disdain for players caught using PEDs, particularly Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun. Mozeliak said he spoke with Holliday before coming to terms with Peralta.
"I didn't have a conversation specifically about PEDs with him," Mozeliak said. "I did talk to him about this player, and he did think it was a nice fit for us."
Mozeliak said it's OK to desire harsher penalties for PED use while also being forgiving of players like Peralta who have been caught.
"From a 10,000-foot view, people do want to see stricter rules, stricter penalties," Mozeliak said. "But when you look at it more in a vacuum or more in a silo on each particular player, we did not feel it was our job to penalize (Peralta) for his past mistakes.
"This event happened back in '12, so he's played a full year clean. ... We have a high level of confidence that this was a one-time event."
Mozeliak described Peralta, a native of the Dominican Republic, as being "quiet."
"He speaks English rather well," Mozeliak said. "I think from our standpoint, he should fit in great in this clubhouse. The good thing for us is we have a very strong clubhouse to begin with.
"Even though Jhonny might not be the most outspoken or loud voice, he's someone that's been through a lot, he's experienced a lot. He should bring value to our clubhouse."
Peralta's contract represents the largest deal the Cardinals ever have given to a free agent who had not already been with them. Holliday signed a seven-year, $100 million contract in January 2010 after playing 63 games with the Cardinals in 2009.
"This is a lot market-driven," Mozeliak said. "Two (years) would have made a lot more sense, but that wasn't possible. You have to sometimes adjust to what's going on. Fortunately for us, one of the resources we did have was payroll flexibility, so we decided to employ it that way."
Mozeliak said the Cardinals will continue to seek trade opportunities. However, everything is quiet for now.
"We still have a lot of pitching depth," Mozeliak said. "If there was something that made sense, we would have to think about it. I will candidly say, nothing seems like it will. But it won't hurt to explore some things over the next month and a half."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.