Globe and Mail: Jays After Peralta?

You owe me for this.  I got an email about a sweet Jhonny Peralta trade rumor in Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper.  I found the article and got ready for some juicy rumormongering.  Unfortunately, they only gave me a little taste and made me register (for free).  OK, whatever.  But then, to read this particular article, I was forced to submit credit card information for a free 14 day-trial.  Can someone please remind me to cancel this before July 30th?  Thanks.

Anyway, here’s what Jeff Blair had to say on this topic:

"A contending team could do some serious one-stop shopping by calling Indians GM Mark Shapiro. There was talk in Pittsburgh that the Blue Jays may make a play for shortstop Jhonny Peralta."

The lack of detail was disappointing.  But after going through all that effort to read this I figured I should post something about Peralta and the Blue Jays. 

Peralta, 24, has definitely struggled in his second full season with the Tribe.  He played 141 games last year with a .366 OBP and .520 SLG.  He drew a walk in more than 10% of his plate appearances and put the bat on the ball 75% of the time.  Those last two marks typically play out to a .250 batting average instead of last year’s .292, so we might have seen this coming.

This year Peralta has a .330 OBP.  He’s walked 10% of the time again and has a similar 74% contact rate.  The .256 AVG/.330 OBP are no fluke.  His SLG dropping all the way to .406 was not anticipated, however. Baseball Prospectus called for him to slug .464 this year after a .520 mark last season.  Not sure how to explain the power outage.  Peralta is slugging .610 in 41 July ABs, for what that’s worth.

Mark Shapiro signed Peralta to the standard Indians arbitration buyout deal last March.  It’s for five years and $13MM; the deal finishes with a $7MM club option for 2011.  Any way you shake it, Peralta will be a bargain for years to come (as many young players are). 

The average AL shortstop is hitting .283/.339/.416 this season, very similar to Peralta’s output this year.  So he’ll be at least tolerable with the stick and can probably surpass that.  How about defense?

Peralta’s range doesn’t seem to impress the fine gentlemen of The Fielding Bible.  He’s below average on plays to his left, and even worse going to his right.  On the other hand, they describe his arm as "accurate" and note that he was the best in baseball at turning double plays in 2005.

All in all Peralta should be a 5-6 win player locked up cheap for years to come.  Should the Blue Jays make every effort to acquire him?

Probably not.  Jays’ shortstops are hitting .306/.359/.438 this year, comfortably above average. The Jays recently moved Russ Adams to second base, where his below average arm is better suited.  Right now they’ve got Aaron Hill at short.  The Blue Jays are 4.5 games out of first in the AL East.  The team leads the league in OPS and SLG, so the offense doesn’t seem to be a problem.  They’re 6th out of 14 in defensive efficiency, but Peralta wouldn’t really help that. 

It’s pitching that’s held the Blue Jays back thus far.  Both the bullpen and the starters are ranked 10th in the league in ERA.  The injury woes of Gustavo Chacin have really hurt, as he was the perfect #3 starter between A.J. Burnett and Ted Lilly.  Chacin’s sprained elbow may still need Tommy John, but otherwise he could return in August.  Given the team’s expenditures in the offseason, going the extra mile to get that starter makes sense.

It appears the Jays can only take on another $3MM in salary this year, however.  John Smoltz has been mentioned, and he is owed less than $4MM for the rest of the season.  The opportunity to win the division exists if Toronto somehow acquires a solid rental starter and a top-notch reliever in the Tom Gordon mold.  Getting both pieces seems unlikely given the team’s 25th-ranked farm system.   

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