Despite all of the failed trades, disappointing offensive campaigns, and devastating injuries, the most interesting storyline for the Cardinals in 2014 has still managed to center around SS Jhonny Peralta. The second Peralta signed his 4 year/$53 million contract with the Cards last offseason, our team started catching flack from all over the MLB. Both players and front offices spoke out about rewarding a player who has been suspended for PED’s with a fat contract. Personally, I tend to agree with the players and see no room for cheating in baseball, but my opinion doesn’t count.
With his new contract, Peralta instantly entered the Alex Rodriguez zone of expectations, though scaled back from the Yankee proportions. Like A-Rod, as a proven cheater, no matter how well Peralta performed this season, he would never satisfy those fans who simply see him as a cheater. He would never be above suspicion, and he would never ever justify earning $53 million to play baseball.
But a funny thing has happened this season. Peralta hasn’t hit for average like he did last year in Detroit, but his OBP and slugging are higher this year when isolated from batting average. Some Cardinals’ fans still claim that Peralta is a disappointment and doesn’t pull his weight in St. Louis, but quite the opposite is true. Peralta and Matt Adams are currently the only two everyday players keeping this team in contention, and Peralta’s WAR of 4.1 is second in the NL for shortstops, trailing only Troy Tulowitski.
Yes, that’s right. Peralta has performed at nearly the same level as Troy Tulowitski in 2014. Still think he’s been a disappointment?
To point, Peralta’s wRC+ (a measure of runs created scaled for park effects) sits at 123 currently with 100 being average for major league players. What was Peralta’s wRC+ during 2013 in Detroit which earned him his big contract? 123. By advanced numbers, Peralta has been just as good this year as last, even with the increased testing regimen he’s required to undergo.
So was Peralta worth it? Yes, a hundred times yes.
Peralta has been one of the most valuable shortstops in the game, and he has proved all year long he can do it without the help of PED’s. He is primarily the reason the Cardinals are even in playoff contention right now considering the dreadful state of the pitching and offense.
While many people will never forgive him for cheating (myself included), he has been a truly savvy pick-up by John Mozeliak. Peralta deserves every bit of vehemence thrown his way in my opinion, but he has earned his $53 million. Plain and simple.