ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals upgraded a position that haunted them throughout the playoffs, reaching a four-year deal with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
"We are pleased to announce that Jhonny has agreed to terms and I know he is equally excited to be joining the Cardinals," said Cardinals senior vice president John Mozeliak in a team release.
Peralta is the first player suspended in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal to receive a significant contract. He received a 50-game suspension on Aug. 5 for his connection to the now-closed Florida clinic, but returned for the Detroit Tigers' final three regular season games.
Peralta enhanced his value in the postseason, when he played 10 games in left field and shortstop for Detroit, batted .333 and had several big hits as they fell two wins shy of winning a second consecutive American League pennant.
In St. Louis, he will shore up a weak link on a club that nearly won the World Series. The Cardinals lost Rafael Furcal in March to season-ending elbow surgery, and made do with Pete Kozma during the regular season. Kozma batted just .217 with one home run and a grim .548 on-base plus slugging.
Kozma also committed several misplays in the playoffs and was supplanted by utilityman Daniel Descalso in two World Series games.
Peralta's offensive production figures to more than justify his adequate shortstop play.
In three years as the Tigers' starter, he averaged 15 homers, 68 RBI and produced a .772 OPS. Just prior to his suspension, the Tigers acquired defensive whiz Jose Iglesias from the Boston Red Sox, making Peralta expendable going forward.
Peralta's pending agreement with the Cardinals was first reported by ESPN.
Read the official press release from the Cardinals below.
Official Press Release from St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract through the 2017 season. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Peralta, 31, is a career .268 batter with 156 home runs and 698 RBI in 1,383 career games with Cleveland (2003-10) and Detroit (2010-13). The Santiago, Dominican Republic native batted .303 with 30 doubles, 11 home runs and 55 RBI last season for the Tigers, earning selection to the American League All-Star team – his 2nd All Star selection in the past three seasons (also 2011).
"We are pleased to announce that Jhonny has agreed to terms and I know he is equally excited to be joining the Cardinals," stated Cardinals Senior V.P./General Manager John Mozeliak. "Jhonny is among the game's top offensive shortstops, he's a steady defender and he has experience playing for a contender. He gives us proven veteran experience and brings balance and versatility to our everyday lineup. "
The right-handed hitting Peralta ranks 5th among active shortstop in both slugging (.430) and on-base + slugging (.762) since 2010 and he's recorded 25 or more doubles every season since 2005, averaging 35 two-base hits over the course of his career. His .765 career OPS is ranked 8th among active shortstops.
The 6-2, 215-pound Peralta has ranked among the A.L.'s top-three shortstops in fielding pct. in five of the last eight seasons and his .980 career mark is 5th among active shortstops. He had a career-best .991 mark this past season. Peralta has also made 203 career starts at third base and has also played some outfield and first base.
Peralta has played a total of 45 career postseason games, including 38 at shortstop, ranking 4th among active shortstops behind only Derek Jeter, Rafael Furcal and Jimmy Rollins. He is the only active shortstop to have a perfect 1.000 fielding pct. in postseason play (min. 16 games). Peralta owns a .283 career postseason batting average and he was 11-for-33 (.333) with four doubles during Detroit's 2013 postseason run.
Peralta, who in August received and served a 50-game suspension for violation of Major League Baseball's drug policy, acknowledged his mistake and took full responsibility for his actions. Prior to last season, the durable Peralta had appeared in 140 or more games per season since 2005 when he took over as Cleveland's regular shortstop.