The St. Louis Cardinals are off to a slow start and have been trying to find a formula to consistently win. As the season has progressed, it looks as though Jhonny Peralta is not a part of that formula.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Jhonny Peralta have had an extremely succesful relationship up until last year. With Peralta’s first season as a Cardinal, he posted a 5.3 fWAR and was among the best shortstops in the entire major leagues.
The Cardinals originally signed Peralta to a 4 year – $53 million contract after Peralta was recently suspended for PED use. After Peralta’s first season in St. Louis though, his contract looked to be more than worth it. But as time has gone by, fans and management now know that Peralta hasn’t aged or progressed as well as we had all hoped.
Last season Peralta’s struggles and decline began after he injured his thumb in a spring training game while performing a sliding play. Fortunately, this lead to the discovery of Aledmys Diaz and his siege of the starting shortstop position. Diaz was one of the best offensive shortstops in the National League in 2016 and that forced Peralta to move to third base once he was healthy. Unfortunately, Peralta never looked comfortable or confident on defense or at the plate.
Now, to open the 2017 season, Peralta finds himself again in an uncomfortable situation that might force the St. Louis Cardinals to move on. He looks completely lost at the plate and utility infielders Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia look like better options offensively and defensively.
Peralta has played in 15 games this season and started as the Opening Day cleanup hitter. However, he hasn’t even made an appearance in the last four games. Manager Mike Matheny has relied on the duo of Garcia and Gyorko to man third base.
Peralta has recorded 27 at-bats which is an incredibly small sample size but those 27 at-bats have said a lot about where Peralta is. He has struck out in 9 of those at-bats and batted .120/.185/.120. If Peralta happens to make contact, it is incredibly weak considering his hard contact rate is only 6.3%.
In last night’s game against the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals showed exactly how much confidence they have in Peralta. Aledmys Diaz was given the day off and Matheny started Greg Garcia at shortstop and Jedd Gyorko at third base. This was done despite Peralta having pretty good numbers against Gerrit Cole, the opposition’s starting pitcher.
In 23 at-bats against Cole, Peralta has batted .304/.360/.391 and usually Matheny is the type of manager to rely on these kinds of relative stats to form a lineup. However, it looks as though there was no interest or confidence in playing him.
Furthermore, in the 7th inning of last night’s game, Pittsburgh brought in lefty reliever Felipe Rivero and there were two outs with a runner on first. Greg Garcia was up to bat and typically Matheny has not let Garcia bat against left-handed pitchers. Diaz was already used as a pinch hitter earlier in the inning and Gyorko was in the game at third base. There were two right-handed batters on the bench in Peralta and Eric Fryer.
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However, Matheny let Garcia take the rare lefty vs. lefty at-bat instead of allowing Peralta to pinch hit. This, along with Peralta’s obvious absence from the game plan seems to be a red flag. Fans have not had any confidence in Peralta for some time now and maybe management feels similarly.
With all of this in mind, St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will need to make a tough decision. Peralta is owed $10 million this season which would make Peralta difficult to move even if he was producing at an adequate level. Mozeliak surely has thrown Peralta’s name around in any trade discussions or negotiations but realistically, what value does Peralta have if he’s making that much money and not producing?
Because of that, it seems like the only realistic option is to release Jhonny Peralta. If they can’t rely on him as a pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers and they won’t start him when they need to string together some wins and they can’t trade him, then what else can they do with him?
Mozeliak surely will try to find some type of alternative before releasing him. There will always be an attempt to salvage something out of the contract and relationship and Mozeliak will only release Peralta if that is the only option left.
Best case scenario would be to trade him but that likely means he is paired with something of great value and is more of a salary dump than anything. It isn’t an ideal situation for the St. Louis Cardinals or Peralta himself, but it is nearing the point of needing a conclusion.