Jhonny Peralta Rumors

AL East Notes: Rays, Lowe, Peralta, Napoli, Ortiz

If David Price isn't traded, "almost every baseball person one talks to mentions the Rays as the team to beat in the American League," Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece for his Gammons Daily website.  Price has stayed in the fold despite multiple trade rumors this winter, with the Rays instead adding roster depth instead of moving another cornerstone player for prospects.  The depth and continuity carrying over from 2013 is a big factor for Evan Longoria, who notes that "for the first time since I’ve been here, we have almost everyone back. We have a team that is going to play together two years in a row.”

Here's some more from around the AL East…

  • The Rays' "laid back environment" was a key reason why Mark Lowe chose to sign a minor league deal with the club, MLB.com's Bill Chastain reports.  Lowe notes that his choice came down to the Rays and Indians this winter, as those were the two clubs who "pushed the hardest" for his services.  Tampa manager Joe Maddon said that the Rays originally tried to sign Lowe during the 2012-13 offseason.
  • Jhonny Peralta said the Yankees offered him a three-year contract and the opportunity to play third base, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter links).  The Yankees were Peralta's preferred Big Apple team since the Mets only offered him a two-year deal that Peralta described as "not really good."  Of course, Peralta overcame the stigma of his 50-game PED suspension last season to sign a four-year, $53MM contract with the Cardinals as their everyday shortstop.
  • Mike Napoli rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox last fall and the slugger felt the draft pick compensation limited his free agent options, Napoli tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.  “It’s tough because it’s kind of holding you back,” Napoli said. “You get (to free agency) and it should be all the teams that want you. The way it is now, if a team doesn’t want to give up a pick, they’re not going to be interested.”  It ended up being something of a moot point for Napoli, as he openly wanted to return to Boston and re-signed for a two-year, $32MM deal.
  • There isn't any new news about David Ortiz's contract talks with the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports.  The two sides apparently haven't had any further negotiations since their initial meetings two weeks ago.  (Cafardo shared some more items about the AL East in his regular Sunday column, as reported earlier.)
  • Quintin Berry talks to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford about why he signed with the Orioles and how he appreciated his time with the Red Sox last season, though the Sox didn't push too hard to re-sign him.  “Supposedly [they tried] a little bit, but I know they had a couple of things in mind they wanted to do, some guys they wanted to try and give experience to,” Berry said. “So I just wanted to test the market and see what else I could do."  Berry signed a minor league deal with the O's in January.

AL Central Notes: Thome, Perkins, Twins, Ervin, Peralta

Though he's yet to officially retire, 43-year-old slugger Jim Thome would like to be a big league manager at some point, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thome, who took a position in the White Sox' front office last summer, told Van Schouwen: "I want to look at what the next phase is for me getting back on the field, competing at a high level. There is a side to me that wants to manage someday and prepare myself for it if that opportunity came calling." More out of the AL Central as Spring Training picks up steam…

  • Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that one conversation three years ago changed Glen Perkins' future with the team entirely. The bad blood between Perkins and his hometown Twins was well documented, as he had been weighing a grievance against Minnesota regarding his service time. Perkins approached pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire and simply told them he had no desire to play elsewhere. Anderson tells Souhan: "He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’" Perkins, a 2013 All-Star, has developed into one of the game's best closers since that time.
  • The Twins have signed 18-year-old Australian first baseman Jack Barrie to a six-figure bonus, according to a report from Australian news outlet SBS. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN confirmed that it's a six-figure deal and adds that the team still has money left in its 2013-14 international free agent budget after the signing (Twitter link).
  • In the latest edition of his "Hey, Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells one reader that he would be "stunned" if the Indians made a late play for Ervin Santana. Though Cleveland's name has been connected to the former Angels and Royals hurler, Hoynes says that the team values its first-round pick too highly to make such a move.
  • Jhonny Peralta was planning on appealing his suspension last season in order to remain with his teammates through the playoff push, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. However, when the club acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox, Peralta says he "knew [he] had to take [his] suspension." Nightengale spoke with GM Dave Dombrowski, who told him: "We talked to his agent (Seth Levinson, at the time) and we knew he was thinking of appealing. There was a time I was thinking he was going to appeal. And at that point, we wouldn't have made a trade. But my gut told me the closer we got to the (trade) deadline, and talked to them, he wasn't going to appeal."

NL Central Notes: Cardinals, Cubs

New Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta disclosed at a fundraising event on Saturday that he was targeted by several clubs this offseason who were interested in him as a shortstop, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. However, St. Louis offered the opportunity to play for an annual contender, Peralta said at the team's Winter Warm-Up event. Here's more from the NL Central: 

  • Top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras says he expects to be fully healthy when he reports early for Spring Training next month, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports. The outfielder, who underwent an ankle procedure to repair torn ligaments and remove loose cartilage, will be in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times hears from multiple sources that the Cubs are a "long shot" to land Masahiro Tanaka (Twitter link). The Cubs were one of many clubs to have made a formal offer to the Japanese star, according to a Nikkan Sports report.
  • Speaking at the Cubs Convention today, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the team erred in promoting Brett Jackson to the majors in 2012, commenting that the outfielder may have required more minor league seasoning (via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat). Jackson struggled to a .175/.303/.342 line in 142 plate appearances, and returned to the minors in 2013 to hit just .210/.296/.330. Epstein explained that then-manager Dale Sveum wanted to work on developing Jackson's swing.
  • Count Cubs manager Rick Renteria among those excited about the team's stable of prospects. Muskat reports that Renteria called Epstein to express his excitement about the Cubs' young players while interviewing for two other manager openings this offseason, leading to his hiring for the Cubs' job.

NL Notes: Rockies, Flowers, Thatcher, Barney

The Dodgers have a thrown a wrench into the free agent outfield market by listening to trade offers for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio in an Insider post (subscription required). Scott Boras is also a complicating factor, according to Bowden, because he represents the two top free agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (#2 and #3, respectively, on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). Bowden theorizes the other top-tier free agent outfielders may wait to sign in order to see how Boras sets the market for Ellsbury and Choo. In today's news and notes from the National League:

  • Rockies owner Dick Monfort provided Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post with a detailed line-by-line budget for his franchise. Monfort explains how revenue from the new national TV contract is absorbed by payments on the club's MLB credit line, player raises, and projected revenue losses for not having home dates with the Yankees and Red Sox. Monfort estimates being able to reinvest only $4-5MM of the new TV money into the on-the-field product.    
  • Renck, via Sulia, agrees with the assessment of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes that the Ricky Nolasco contract resembles Edwin Jackson's. Renck believes the Rockies would have been paralyzed under their self-imposed budget constraints had they signed Nolasco, so their best option for a rotation upgrade is through a trade.
  • The Mets will have interest in catcher Tyler Flowers, if he is non-tendered by the White Sox, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma. Mets executives have liked Flowers in the past and see him as a potential backup to Travis d'Arnaud. Flowers, however, told Scott Merkin of MLB.com "(t)here have been a couple of conversations" with the White Sox about reaching an agreement to avoid arbitration. "I put it at 51-49 in favor of staying because of the contractual conversation we've had before," Flowers said. "They've reached out to me to try to see where each other is at. If they didn't care at all, they would have done nothing and non-tendered me."
  • It would be a surprise if the Diamondbacks non-tender left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher because free agent bullpen arms aren't cheap, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Thatcher struggled after Arizona acquired him from San Diego in the Ian Kennedy trade to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, and 11.6 H/9 in 9 1/3 innings (22 appearances).  
  • The Cubs will likely tender second baseman Darwin Barney, despite a career-worst season at the plate (.208/.266/.303 in 501 plate appearances), because the only realistic in-house replacement is Luis Valbuena, reasons MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.1MM arbitration salary for Barney and $1.5MM for Valbuena, who is playing second base in the Venezuelan Winter League.
  • The Cardinals made the right move in signing Jhonny Peralta because they were able to upgrade a position of need while retaining their prized young arms, opines MLB.com's Richard Justice

Peralta, PED Incentives, And The Next JDA

We've all seen the range of responses to the four-year, $53MM deal that Jhonny Peralta inked with the Cardinals right on the heels of serving a fifty game suspension for violating the performance enhancing substances prohibitions contained in the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (JDA). Rather than rehash them here, or take a moral stand in one way or another, I'd like to look at things from a practical perspective.

By guaranteeing four years at over $13MM per, the contract went well beyond the biggest multi-year deals given to other players recently hit with a suspension just before hitting free agency. That doesn't change the moral calculus, but it does highlight that — as MLBTR's Steve Adams has explained — teams may not be substantially reducing their valuation of a player based on his past usage of PEDs. Though clubs may factor in some negative PR value, discount past performance during periods of use, or add in a bit of an additional risk adjustment, the net just isn't that great.

Peralta may well have landed his deal because of his steady production and defense at a position in great demand on the present market, rather than his PED use. But he just as surely did not lose his deal because of the banned substances that he took.

This matters most, it seems to me, because of what it says about incentives. Teams' market-driven decision-making is apparently not going to provide a significant disincentive on its own. And the fact is, as Cards' GM John Mozeliak correctly points out"at this point in the game, there's nothing that says [Peralta] can't go play or isn't free to go sign with another club."

And, arguably, neither is the JDA itself doing enough to shift the PED equation. Like all punitive systems, the JDA sets up upon negatives incentives to outweigh positive incentives to engage in the behavior it wishes to prohibit. As Diamondbacks reliever and union rep Brad Ziegler said on Twitter: "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it's not." 

This may be somewhat overstated: the shaming effect (especially given the shift in player sentiment) and suspension process seem to be having at least some effect, as most observers acknowledge that PED usage is not nearly as rampant as it once was. On the other hand, Ziegler is definitely on to something. At least for some players, in some situations, the benefits to using PEDs outweigh the drawbacks — even, perhaps, if they are caught. The meager weight of the current suspension system, I think, is the most worrying lesson from the Peralta deal. 

Viewed in its worst light, the suspension system creates a mental process much like the kitchen table scene in Office Space. Playing the devil on the shoulder of his would-be co-conspirators, Peter Gibbons seals their agreement to skim cash from their hated employer by dismissing the downside: "This isn't Riyadh. … The worst they would ever do is they would put you for a couple of months into a white-collar, minimum-security resort!"

But is it really the case that the use of banned substances could, in some cases, present only de minimus downside for a player? Is Ziegler right that Peralta shows that "it pays to cheat"

In some ways, that certainly could be the case. Players who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar often claim they used PEDs to help recover from injury, not to artificially boost performance. Now that we're past the era of cartoonishly outsized sluggers, that may even be the most common and impactful use of PEDs. You know, just getting back to a player's regular level of production and giving him a chance to demonstrate his value at an opportune time. Sure, he may pay for it later by giving up fifty games worth of salary. But the chance to, say, highlight performance before hitting free agency, or jump at an early-career MLB opportunity, can often be invaluable to a ballplayer. 

So, assuming that a blanket ban on the list of disallowed PEDs is in fact the goal — putting aside, in other words, the debate on their use in injury rehab — it seems to me that a more thoughtful disincentive system is plainly needed. As a baseline, it is important to recognize that PED prohibition is an agreed-upon rule of the game, and its enforcement is as much about fairness to clean players (and to fans) as it is about keeping dirty players from using to their own long-term health detriment.  

Click below to see my conceptual proposal for some methods that might be employed, individually or in concert, to arrive at a more effective system of PED disincentives. These include: eliminating suspensions altogether; varying punishment based upon service time and/or contract status; and utilizing financial disincentives while minimizing impact on competition and the market.


Quick Hits: Roberts, Peralta, Tigers, Phillies, Ellsbury

Longtime Cardinals scout Mike "Lefty" Roberts' distinguished career and recent battle with cancer is detailed by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  “Mike Roberts has more than three decades as a scout, five decades of knowledge," Cards GM John Mozeliak said as part of the profile.  "As our scouting department evolved and we became more diverse — a playing background is less critical now than it was 20 years ago — we had to get our scouts up to speed. Mike bridged that gap.”

With another Thanksgiving in the books, let's check out from news from around baseball…

  • Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball will continue negotiations about a new posting agreement next week, according to a Kyodo News report (passed on by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times via Twitter).
  • The Tigers' blockbuster trade of Prince Fielder wasn't a factor in the team's decision to let Jhonny Peralta leave in free agency, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports.  Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says the team saw Peralta as a shortstop, and the club couldn't decide on Peralta as a third base option since the Tigers still aren't sure what they'll do at third with Miguel Cabrera possibly moving back to first and Nick Castellanos possibly taking over the hot corner.
  • Also from Beck, he notes that with Fielder gone, the Tigers will be looking for a left-handed bat to add balance to the lineup.
  • Peralta was somewhat of a risky signing for the Cardinals but Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch feels it was one the Cards could afford to make given the overall strength of their organization and their modest future payroll commitments.
  • David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looks at some realistic depth options the Phillies could add to their bench for 2014.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, ESPN.com's David Schoenfield opines.

Quick Hits: Peralta, Saltalamacchia, Molina

The Cardinalsfour-year, $53MM deal with Jhonny Peralta has an interesting twist: it's frontloaded.  The shortstop will earn $15.5MM in 2014, $15MM in '15, $12.5MM in '16, and $10MM in '17, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Here's tonight's look around the majors..

  • Peralta's deal raises the uncomfortable issue of PED usage paying off, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.  Diamondbacks relief pitcher and team union representative Brad Ziegler took his dissatisfaction with the deal to Twitter, but he's far from the only player who has an issue with players linked to PEDs getting major paydays.
  • Heyman looks at the market for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and wonders if the Blue JaysTwins, or Rockies could steal him away from the Red Sox.  The Rangers look like another possibility to some, but one person connected with the club says a return for Salty isn't too likely at the moment.  Texas has looked at free agent catchers, but they've also suggested that Geovany Soto will be their fulltime backstop.
  • The Rays' are still waiting on results of Jose Molina's physical and therefore won't have an announcement on his signing until early next week, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  Molina is expected to ink a two-year, $4.5MM pact to stay with Tampa Bay.
  • The opportunity to win attracted Skip Schumaker to the Reds, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.  Schumaker said his decision came down to the Reds and one other unspecified playoff-caliber team.
  • In today's inbox, MLB.com's Corey Brock touches on the possibility of star third baseman Chase Headley being moved and other matters surrounding the Padres.

NL Notes: Guerrero, D’backs, Rockies, Peralta, Nats, Marlins

For the latest on negotiations between MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball on the posting fee arrangement — which has major implications, in particular, for highly-regarded starter Masahiro Tanaka — check out this update from Ben Badler of Baseball America. We'll round out the evening with a variety of links from around the National League:

  • Alexander Guerrero is dealing with a hamstring injury in his Dominican Winter League stint, tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, and GM Ned Colletti indicated that the missed time could postpone the Dodgers' decision as to whether he'll play short or second next year. That decision — or, potentially, the inability to make it — could seemingly have an impact on Los Angeles' off-season shopping list.
  • The Diamondbacks are down on the free agent market, reports MLB.com's Steve Gilbert"I've spoken a little to our own free agents," said GM Kevin Towers. "But from the looks of where this free agent market is right now and where it's headed, it's not a place where I want to do a lot of business." Gilbert notes that the club has made an offer to infielder Eric Chavez, but that he is still mulling interest from other landing spots.
  • The Rockies are implementing a new player development structure, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. In lieu of roving instructors, the standard in baseball, Colorado will employ "developmental directors" who will each be responsible for a given team and look to prioritize skill development rather than minor league game outcomes.
  • Discussing the club's recent signing of Jhonny PeraltaCardinals GM John Mozeliak explained that a thin shortstop market left Peralta as the best fit for the club. While he said the club considered his PED suspension, he opined that "I don't think it's the Cardinals' responsibility necessarily to be the morality police on potentially future employment." As Peralta admitted his violation of the league's policy and paid his penance, said Mozeliak, "at this point in the game, there's nothing that says he can't go play or isn't free to go sign with another club."
  • Mozeliak also said that the club looked around at possible trades, but found the cost prohibitive, tweets Stan McNeal of FOX Sports Midwest. 
  • In a well-argued set of responses to fan questions, Adam Kilgore and James Wagner of the Washington Post took stock of a wide range of issues facing the Nationals. Among the thoughts offered relate to the second base position. The Nats are well-situated to add Robinson Cano, says Kilgore, and the move makes some sense. But Kilgore explains that such a scenario remains largely unlikely. Meanwhile, fallen keystoner Danny Espinosa has relatively minimal trade value, Wagner offers. His value to the organization, in terms of upside and as a competitor/backup option to Anthony Rendon, probably outweighs what he'd return.
  • The Marlins are mulling over a minor league offer to infielder Scott Sizemore, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel. Certainly, Miami would figure to have the inside track on players looking for a legitimate chance to see big league time at second or third.
  • Miami has not only lured "superscout" Jeff McAvoy away from the Rays, but sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that the club will add Mike Berger from the Diamondbacks in a vice president role (Twitter links). This makes for a quiet but outstanding off-season, opines Passan, who notes that the organization could look quite different if owner Jeffrey Loria gives new GM Dan Jennings more authority than was afforded predecessor Larry Beinfest.

Breaking Down The Jhonny Peralta Signing

While many pundits expected a few deals in the four-year, $50-55MM range to be issued this offseason, few thought that Jhonny Peralta would be on the receiving end of such a lavish payday. Yet that's exactly what took place over the weekend, with the Cardinals agreeing to a four-year, $53MM contract with the former Tiger and Indian.

At first glance, Peralta's contract appears to be an alarming overpay, however that's more due to the fact that there was clearly a disconnect between his market value and the media perception of his worth. This isn't said to pat myself on the back by any means (I was off by $17MM on the total value of his contract, after all), but my own projection of three years and $36MM for Peralta was among the most aggressive numbers I saw around the baseball sphere when looking at other predictions. News that Peralta was seeking $56-75MM late last week was widely scoffed at by MLBTR readers both on Twitter and in the comments section of the post.

Reports have indicated that the Mets believed, initially, that they would be able to land Peralta on a two-year contract. They weren't the only ones thinking along those lines, as ESPN's Jim Bowden pegged him at two years and $20MM. Meanwhile, over at CBS Sports, Jon Heyman spoke to an agent and an unnammed GM, and that trio pegged Peralta in the two-year, $16-21MM range. When I presented my own three-year, $36MM prediction to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes as we were discussing the free agent profile series, he was struck by its aggressive nature.

As it turns out, I, like many others, failed to properly weigh three key components that played a vital role in Peralta's contract:

  • The middle infield and third base markets offered little to no competition. Even with a limited number of teams looking to spend big on a free agent shortstop, the bar was set higher than any of us imagined, as the floor for Peralta appears to have been three years and $45MM.
  • Teams' strong desire to hang onto draft picks is likely greater than any of us have taken into account. Stephen Drew, who is connected to draft pick compensation after rejecting a qualifying offer, represents the only true everyday alternative to Peralta on the open market. The amount for which he signs will be one of the most interesting stories of the offseason from this point forth.
  • Teams may not be as hesitant to sign players connected to performance enhancing drugs as we would initially think. If this is the case, it's good news for Nelson Cruz and Bartolo Colon as they look to maximize their free agent paydays. I predicted three years and $39MM for Cruz and one year at $10MM for Colon in their respective free agent profiles — two projections that are feeling a bit light given the early direction of the free agent market.

From a performance standpoint, Peralta is a solid player that's probably deserving of a $13MM AAV. I won't rehash the fine work done by Eno Sarris and Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs in illustrating why a slightly above-average hitter (relative to the rest of the league, that is; Peralta dwarfs the average shortstop in terms of offensive prowess) and a reliable defensive shortstop is worth such an investment, or why this is the going rate for such players.

While many will be quick to label this contract an "overpay," we need to be more mindful of what that term really means. Should an "overpay" be defined by our own expectations, or should it be defined by the possibilities within the structure of a given free agent market? Each free agent market is its own animal, unique in nature and unlikely to be repeated. In this instance, a three-year deal likely wasn't happening, and there are even reports that have indicated Peralta left money on the table to join a stacked Cardinals organization. If that's the case, Peralta's signing is likely a bargain relative to the realm of realistic possibilities, even if it's an eye-popping number for which most of the world was ill-prepared. Kudos to agent Fern Cuza of SFX for dissuading teams from the media's perception of his market and more than doubling most prognosticators' expectations in terms of years and dollars.

Quick Hits: Peralta, Closers, Saltalamacchia, Twins

Jhonny Peralta's new $53MM deal with the Cardinals could lead to changes to MLB's Joint Drug Agreement, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Peralta already served a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but he's now getting a large contract just months later, one that dwarfs other recent contracts for players like Marlon Byrd and Melky Cabrera who also received PED suspensions. "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it’s not. So we are working on it again," Diamondbacks player representative Brad Ziegler tweeted today. Rosenthal writes that players are likely to raise the topic of harsher PED penalties at a players union meeting in December. Any changes would then have to be negotiated with MLB's owners. Here are more notes from around the Majors.