Jhonny Peralta Rumors
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.
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.
Eliminating Suspensions and New Team Disincentives
The fifty game suspension has proven relatively weak, at least in some circumstances. The salary hit can be substantial, but it is hardly earth-shattering and could be imposed without the loss of playing time. And the Peralta deal seems to show that, at least if you aren't otherwise viewed as a problem child, clubs are not discounting heavily what they're willing to pay PED users.
But, suspension does at least hold the promise of providing disincentives to teams as well as players. And after all, shouldn't clubs bear some responsibility for ensuring a clean slate of players, or at least for not willingly supporting PED use? Of course, at least to some extent. But the current system hardly makes sense.
As any parent knows, timing and context are critical in how you dole out punishments to your kids. Ryan Braun recently admitted that he took PEDs in late 2011, potentially boosting an MVP season that fueled the Brewers' division title. On the other hand, he served his suspension at the back end of a lost season for a bottom-dwelling club, and did not even see much of a financial hit since his nine-figure extension has yet to kick in.
Indeed, the suspension/loss of pay system can easily have an ambiguous impact on the team. For instance: Alex Rodriguez is the Yankees' highest-paid player. At one point, at least, that reflected that the team thought he was its best player. So, suspension is bad for the team, right? But, of course, we all now know, subjectively, that A-Rod is but a shell of his former self, and the suspension will save the Yanks a lot of dough. On the other hand, perhaps with mixed motivations, GM Brian Cashman says he'd rather pay Rodriguez and have him on the field.
And ultimately, it may not be appropriate to punish teams if there is no tie between their actions and that of the player. No public information has suggested that the Tigers were in any way involved in Peralta's violation, yet they lost him down the stretch while pursuing a division title. In many cases, players will reach the point of suspension with a team other than that for which they played when they actually used the banned substance.
In designing those elements of a new system targeted at teams, there are any number of mechanisms to create major disincentives that are not specifically tied to an individual player's contract or game availability. Loss of draft picks (along with pool allocation), sacrifice of international spending money, even caps on free agent spending are but a few ideas that come to mind. All make more sense as team deterrents than a suspension. In the alternative -- or, in addition -- teams could be stripped of titles or face substantial fines if found to have encouraged PED use for competitive benefit.
That still leaves the unresolved question of when teams should face punishment. Some have suggested an automatic punishment for clubs whose players are caught, which I find problematic at first glance. That would make teams the de facto PED guardians, and may not adequately reflect the extent to which players act entirely outside of their organization in obtaining substances. Surely, if the league can obtain evidence of a player's use, it can dig up information showing whether a team played any role in it, punishing any specific team employees as well as the team itself.
Of course, per se team penalties are arguably necessary to overcome systemic hesitation to pursue the entities that together make up the league and employ its leadership. But if players are as serious about getting PEDs out of the game as they say, then perhaps anonymous or otherwise incentivized information reporting could overcome fears of reprisal.
Service Time and Contract Status
Turning to suggestions for a replacement system, it seems to me that one major problem with the current setup is its single set of punishments. While perfectly tailored disincentives are an impossibility -- after all, every player is a different person with different wants and needs -- it seems possible to make some adjustments that reflect the very different roster and contract situations that players are in.
As an initial matter, it would be necessary to decide whether to slot punishment based upon a player's status at the time that they are deemed to have violated the agreement or at the time that the punishment is levied. While the former is appealing, it carries the added difficulty of pinpointing violation timetables and may provide a weaker deterrent, since players generally reach greater earning capacity as they accrue service time.
Further, as already hinted at, it is preferable to limit as much as possible the number of scenarios that carry separate punishments, which will aid implementation and help keep things clear. My preliminary suggestion, based upon my proposed punitive system, would be to separate out classes of players based upon service time accrued as of the date of punishment.
Separation based upon service time would at least allow a rough generalization of the incentives at play for players at that stage of their career, which in turns makes it easier to craft disincentives to shift the equation against PED use. (Remember, we are only talking here about players that have achieved 40-man roster status and are therefore subject to the JDA.) And it allows more flexibility for tailoring disincentives without getting overly complicated.
So, what disincentives should be employed?
Effective Financial Disincentives That Do Not Skew Competition Or The Market
As Ziegler hinted, the key may be to hit offending players' pocketbooks in a way that makes getting caught a significant threat, not just a cost of doing business. Non-financial possibilities exist as well, such as adding minor league options, delaying free agency, or limiting the length or size of a deal that a free agent can sign. But each of those options would have a real effect on baseball's player market: the first two, for instance, would clearly benefit the player's team, and the latter would drastically skew the open market signing process.
Instead, I believe that it makes the most to target player earnings directly. There are three key elements that, I think, combine to best align the competing considerations here:
- By keeping such "taxed" amounts on teams' payrolls, but out of players' pockets, the market-distorting effects can be minimized.
- By employing an incremental tax rate system to player earnings, it would be possible to hit higher-salary players hard enough to create a real deterrent.
- Providing a longer term over which the "tax" applies for players with less service time would give the system bite for younger players who might otherwise not see sufficient downside.
Starting with the first point, my suggestion is that players receiving PED punishment would nevertheless continue to accrue service time and negotiate salaries exactly as before. Artificial limitations on earnings would have a massive and hard-to-predict impact in all sorts of situations. If, say, an arb-eligible player lost his eligibility for a year when he'd be a possible non-tender, his current team could enjoy an advantage in retaining him at league minimum. Or, if a free agent was only allowed to sign a predetermined, one-year contract, an attractive suitor might be able to take him away from other clubs who would be willing to spend more.
Instead, my tax concept would allow the player and team(s) to negotiate as before, with the caveat that the player would lose a certain percentage of his actual take-home pay. By taking a percentage (at an escalating rate based on pay level), the player would still have the same incentives to maximize dollars, whether through arbitration, extension, or free agency. By prescribing a specific term of years over which the tax would apply and phase out (even if it extended over multiple contracts), the player would still have the same incentives to maximize years.
As for what happens with the "taxed" sums, it seems that many appropriate options might exist. From the fund of lost PED earnings, the league could set up educational initiatives, provide benefits to retired players, support charities, develop league-wide initiatives, or employ some mix of the above.
Turning to the incremental rate, my proposal would work like much like the tax code, with a greater chunk of salary being taken as the annual value goes up. To illustrate with some wholly arbitrary numbers, the league-minimum level might get a 30% rake while a $10MM salary might be hit at 70%. If a player's annual salary were to rise during the time period during which they are subject to the tax, their rate would rise with it.
At the same time, a phase-out process would reduce the tax over the prescribed term. So, for example, if a certain player faced a 50% tax based on his salary, but was in a 25% phase-out year, the player would sacrifice three-eighths of his salary for that season. In situations where the salary structure of multi-year deals (whether preexisting, as with Braun, or prospective) could benefit the player, it would be relatively easy to average out the value for purposes of assessing the tax. (Indeed, the CBA already provides such calculations for luxury tax and related purposes.)
While my system would require a good deal of reassessment as players enter new deals, and would make for a specific loss of salary that is far from determined at the point at which the punishment is fixed, it should be possible to craft the details in a workable manner. Players are advised by sophisticated agents who can well explain the significance of these measures. And the overall lesson will be clear: getting caught at an opportune time will not lessen the blow. In many ways this system would function by trying to take away much of the upside of PED use.
But is greater salary loss for better-paid players the right approach? In many ways, the incentives are greater for PED use by younger, more marginal players. But given the greater educational, public relations, and exemplary harm caused by violations by more prominent players, there is ample justification for hitting them hardest. And as supposed by the competitive fairness principle I espoused above, the key is on finding appropriate deterrents for players of different contract classes, not whether they are necessarily equal as between those classes.
The last point, then, relates to the length of time that the tax would have effect. By hitting players with less service time with a longer-running term, the prospect of a serious hit to future earnings would enhance the deterrent effect while avoiding a potentially unfair (or, in other cases, ineffective) hit to early-career, lower-level earnings. On the other hand, players that have already reached free agency are in most cases already at or past their peak earning capacity, and would instead receive a steeper, more immediate blow to their income that would phase out in a relatively shorter time period.
While I won't get into specifics here, it might make sense for, say, a pre-arb player to receive a six-year tax period with phase-out reductions dependent upon their service class each year. Meanwhile, a six-plus-year veteran might get a three-year ramp-down period.
Additional Measures and Repeat Offenders
In addition to docking salary, a new system could also consider conditioning continued pursuit of a baseball playing career on participation in relatively demanding treatment, education, and/or public service programs. Much like the terms of probation, failure to meet certain requirements could result in a reversion to more severe punishment. Rather than allowing players caught with PED use simply to utilize a self-prescribed PR campaign to return to the game's good graces, this would require actual, concrete steps to restore their status.
One other way to ensure continuing impact is by addressing the issue of repeat offenders. For instance, the CBA and JDA could contemplate a stock contract clause that applies to players who have been found to have previously violated the JDA, which would be added to current contracts and/or included in future contracts on either a mandatory or a negotiated basis. In addition to enhancing/extending the financial penalties discussed above, inclusion of such a clause could convert guaranteed years to club option years if the player is caught a second time.
As Max Scherzer has argued with respect to Braun: "He still has his contract and he's still financially gaining from this. You gotta start cutting out contracts. I'm for that." This would build off of that idea. Of course, it would also re-introduce the problem of having competitive and market impact.
Perhaps more importantly, it would largely work by enhancing financial disincentives that failed to work the first time around. There are diminishing returns, at some point, to going after pocketbooks. Depending upon the tax rates applied, offending players might not have much left to go after. And it is at least worth asking whether, if financial disincentives failed once, other kinds of disincentives are necessary.
For that reason, I think that a better repeat offender provision would be essentially different in kind: a second time violating the JDA would result in a lifetime ban. Matt Holliday is among the players to have advocated this result. The current iteration of the JDA already provides a ban on a called third strike, so the players and league are already prepared for it. Perhaps it is time to make the threat of a lost career a realistic threat for those players who have proven unable or unwilling to abide by a baseline rule of the game.
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.
The Cardinals' four-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 Jays, Twins, 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.
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 Peralta, Cardinals 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.
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.
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.
- The market for free agent closers is currently in a holding pattern, with interested teams all eyeing the same group of players (presumably including Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Edward Mujica and Brian Wilson) and waiting for each other to make the first move, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets.
- One dynamic affecting the market for closers might be that teams aren't as willing to pay for saves as they once were, as Paul Swydan of Fangraphs points out. Big-money contracts for closers appear to be decreasing, and Swydan suggests that a number of recent multiyear deals for closer types (Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Brandon League) don't appear to be going well (perhaps particularly when considering underlying indicators like peripherals and velocity).
- The Twins are one of a number of teams "in play" for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The Red Sox and Rangers might also be among that group of teams. After moving Joe Mauer to first base, the Twins are on the lookout for a catcher. They may also be interested in A.J. Pierzynski, Berardino writes.
5:10pm: Pending a physical, the deal is now official, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets.
3:31pm: Heyman tweets the contract is worth $53MM.
12:16pm: The Cardinals have reached agreement with Jhonny Peralta on a deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). It'll be a four-year contract worth a little more than $52MM, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
Peralta, 31, is coming off a solid .303/.358/.457 season but his value took a hit thanks to his 50-game suspension for involvement with the Biogenesis PED scandal. For the Cardinals, Peralta represents a very significant offensive upgrade over shortstop Pete Kozma, even if he looks more like his 2012 self (.239/.305/.384) than '13.
A report late last week indicated that Peralta was seeking a four-year pact in the $56-75MM range. Meanwhile, three GMs told Peter Gammons that Peralta's reps were hinting to teams that they had a four-year, $52MM offer in hand. This weekend, that team has been told that they're "not even in [the] game," according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
For his career, Peralta owns a .268/.330/.425 slash line over eleven seasons with the Indians and Tigers. The veteran's -0.4 career UZR/150 isn't terribly impressive, but the metric shows that he has been playing much better defense at the shortstop position over the last three seasons.
Peralta shows a slight platoon split, but he's been able to hold his own against right-handed pitching throughout his career, slashing .270/.326/.416. In 2013, he hit righties at a .282/.338/.412 clip. He has enough bat against both right-handers and left-handers to be an everyday player.
The veteran also offers solid versatily with experience at third base and some reps in left field this past season. The Orioles were said to be among the teams with interest in Peralta as an outfielder, but he'll be slotted at shortstop for the Cardinals.
Peralta is represented by SFX, according to the MLBTR Agency Database.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (on Twitter) first reported that the two sides were close to an agreement.
- Peralta was asking interested teams for a five-year, $75MM deal, but accepted less from the Cardinals because he wanted to play in St. Louis, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweets not many people predicted this kind of contract for Peralta and Stephen Drew should do better even though he's tied to draft pick compensation and is down a suitor.
- Keith Law of ESPN.com writes in an Insider Only post (subscription required) the move could work out in the short term, but Peralta isn't the type of player he would want to commit to for four years.
- The Cardinals explored trade talks with the Diamondbacks and Angels before settling on Peralta, tweets USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
- The Cardinals used their payroll flexibility to acquire Peralta and were going to have to overpay anyway to obtain a much-needed shortstop either financially in free agency or in prospects on the trade market, opines the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz.
- Within the same article, Miklasz offers six reasons why the Cardinals preferred Peralta over Drew.
- The lack of draft pick compensation helped fueled Peralta's market, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Feinsand, in a second tweet, isn't surprised Peralta was able to net such a lucrative deal despite being suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis affair citing the two-year, $16MM pact the Blue Jays gave Melky Cabrera last offseason after his 50-game PED suspension in 2012.
- Diamondbacks reliever (and union representative) Brad Ziegler was critical of rewarding a player suspended for PED use with such a contract. "It pays to cheat...Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use. People really don't understand how this works. We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it's not. So we are working on it again." (Twitter links)
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio wonders if the Cardinals will play Peralta at third base, keep Matt Carpenter at second base, and trade Kolten Wong for a better overall shortstop (via Twitter).
- This type of free agent acquisition is not typical for the Cardinals, according to ESPN.com's Mark Simon.
- Steven Goldman of SBNation.com compares the Cardinals' signing of Peralta with the Yankees' signing of Brian McCann: a massive upgrade on the incumbent over the short term with a hazier outlook over the long run.
- On its face, Fangraphs' Eno Sarris sees this as a perfect signing for the Cardinals.
We just wrapped up the early reactions to today's biggest news out of the National League Central, but there are some other notes from the division that are worth a look:
- Though the Cardinals talked about acquiring Erick Aybar along with David Freese, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports via Twitter, that does not mean that a second deal is on the horizon. To the contrary, Goold says that the Cards do not expect to continue discussions about bringing Aybar in from the Angels, having realized that the Halos will demand a live, young arm even if Aybar's $25.5MM remaining salary is absorbed by a trade partner.
- A rival executive believes that St. Louis is in on Jhonny Peralta, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, and the Freese trade makes sense in that respect. That being said, Morosi says in another tweet that he has not heard whether St. Louis would go to four years for Peralta.
- Meanwhile, one must wonder whether the addition of Bourjos takes the Cardinals completely out of the running to sign another of the club's recent post-season heroes: Carlos Beltran. This is my speculation, but with top prospect Oscar Taveras knocking on the door, Allen Craig warranting time in right field to give Matt Adams at-bats at first, and Jon Jay still in the fold, a return for Beltran might require another trade to make sense at this point.
- Another trade went down today from the division, with the Brewers shipping out reliever Burke Badenhop to the Red Sox in exchange for 20-year-old lefty Luis Ortega. Baseball America breaks down the players involved, explaining that Ortega is a longshot to make the bigs and profiles as a reliever. The Brew Crew will shed an estimated $2.1MM arbitration salary in the deal, however.
- After shedding Badenhop from the pen, Milwaukee is not hot on the trail of any new relievers, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. As MLBTR's Ed Creech explained in his offseason outlook for the Brewers, the team's pen was hardly the problem last year, and seems to be in good shape save the possible addition of another veteran.