The St Louis Cardinals have agreed to a four-year contract worth around $52 million with free agent Jhonny Peralta. Peralta will be the every day shortstop for the Cardinals, and represents a massive upgrade over Pete Kozma, the 2013 starter who hit just .217/.275/.273 in his first full season in the bigs.
Peralta on the other hand, is a legitimately good hitter. Despite missing 50 games due to a PED suspension in 2013, Peralta hit .303/.358/.457 with 11 home runs for the Tigers to go along with a solid glove at short. But the Tigers acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox in July as Peralta's suspension came down, and Peralta played left field for the first time in his career after returning. Some teams were reportedly interested in Peralta as an outfielder, but putting him in the outfield would lessen the strength of his bat compared to his peers.
The 31-year old Peralta didn't receive a qualifying offer from the Tigers, meaning that the Cardinals wouldn't have to sacrifice their first-round pick to sign him like they would have with Stephen Drew of the Red Sox. Peralta also didn't cost the Cardinals anything in terms of prospects, which would have been the case had the team attempted to acquire Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, a trade that had been rumored at times this offseason.
The PED question will always hang over Peralta's head, especially if he struggles with the Cardinals. Peralta's overall offensive production has fluctuated throughout his career as his BABIP has risen and fallen, and his career-best batting average and second-best OBP in 2013 were due in large part to a career-best .374 BABIP. $13 million per year would be worth it for Peralta if he's able to provide roughly ten wins of value over the life of the contract, but if he struggles with the stick like he did in 2009 and 2010, the Cardinals might end up on the losing end of this contract.
On another note, it'll be interesting to see what Peralta's signing does to the market for Drew. I completely underestimated the value Peralta would bring this winter, and firmly expected Drew to get more than him. That might not be in the cards now, especially with the draft pick compensation tied to him, and a one or two-year deal might be more likely for Drew at this point. But where would he land? The Mets could be the best landing spot for him thanks in part to their protected first round pick, and I honestly can't think of another suitor that needs a shortstop and would be willing to pay Drew the eight figure annual salary he's seeking.