Have we seen the last of Jhonny Peralta in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform?
The former shortstop who seems somewhat disinterested in his new spot as a third baseman got off to a terrible start in 2017, batting a microscopic .120 with nine strikeouts in 25 at-bats. He’s been firmly rooted to the bench for the past several games.
Finally, the other shoe dropped Thursday when the Redbirds put Peralta on the disabled list with — ahem — a “cold.”
It sure seems like a move that was made to give St. Louis more time to decide what to do with their over-the-hill former shortstop on a more permanent basis. I don’t know if there is a trade out there for the aging infielder. At least not one that wouldn’t require the Cardinals to pick up almost all of Peralta’s remaining salary. But as good as a player as Peralta was early in his current contract, he sure looks like he’s done for lately.
Peralta was a good soldier for the Cardinals, serving as a key part of their offense for the first two years of his four-year contract. But he hit the wall at the end of 2015, missed most of the 2016 schedule after tearing a ligament in his thumb during spring training and he’s never quite been the same since.
It’s not typically General Manager John Mozeliak’s way to send away players who have big dollars coming to them on an unexpired contract. But he may not have a choice in this case. The Cardinals got off to their worst start in nearly 30 years and, even when they rebounded a bit with three wins in a row against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team only managed to score two runs a game.
The Cardinals can’t afford to have any dead weight on the position player side of their roster. If Peralta is toast, the front office not only needs to cut him loose, but it needs to find a productive player to fill that spot.
Let’s not forget that, as recently as the opening week of the season, the Cardinals fancied Peralta not only as their starting third baseman — but also their cleanup hitter. We’re not talking about a minor piece here.
Mozeliak has said that all options are on the table to shake up this team. While a trade would seem to be in order, big swaps don’t seem to happen very often at this time of year. A deal would make even more sense if the Redbirds were able to include pitcher Jonathan Broxton in it. Like Peralta, Broxton is a veteran who has been useful. But with Tyler Lyons back on the active roster, there doesn’t seem to be a place for the big righty on the St. Louis squad.
It’s more likely that Peralta and Broxton will eventually be released to make room for a younger pair of players. The options are:
▪ Patrick Wisdom: The young power hitter is hitting .326 with a homer, six doubles and five RBIs so far in this young season in Class AAA Memphis. But he’s piled up 16 strikeouts in 46 at-bats. Wisdom is a good fit because he plays the same position as Peralta. But it would be a lot to ask of a guy to make his MLB debut — and slide right into the big cleanup spot.
▪ Paul DeJong: He has some more versatility than Wisdom, with the ability to play shortstop and second base. He’s hitting .313 for Class AAA and has struck out 15 times in 48 at-bats, not drawing a single walk.
▪ Harrison Bader: The Cardinals could decide not to bother with trying to add another infielder, moving Matt Carpenter back to third and Matt Adams back to first base with Greg Garcia and Jedd Gyorko providing reinforcements. If that was the case, Bader could essentially replace Adams — and then some — in the outfield picture. But Bader is off to a .239 start for the top Cardinals minor-league team.
▪ Tommy Pham: He’s more of a known quantity than Bader and is off to a .333 start in Memphis. But he’s proved to be only a bench player and isn’t going to be a guy who is a long-term solution in the middle of the batting order.
▪ Luke Voit: He is hitting .341 in Class AAA and may be the most MLB-ready hitter there. But he’s a poor fielding first baseman who is going to have limited options for playing time in St. Louis.
The Cardinals seem to have gambled — and lost — that Peralta could turn back the clock this season. But it’s time to move on and hope the team can get a surprise from an unexpected source like when Willie McGee came up from the minors in 1982 to provide spark or when Vince Coleman did the same in 1985.