Here’s Jhonny! What Can Peralta Do For the Cardinals? Good Question.

Jhonny Peralta was added to the 25-man roster Friday.  To me, the only surprise here is that so many people were surprised. Or outraged in some way.

There was never any chance of the Cardinals designating Peralta for assignment — dumping him — before first bringing him back from the DL to see what, if anything, he can contribute.

And that’s the only mystery here.

How much will Peralta play?

Where will he play?

And who takes a seat to make room for Jhonny?

Is there a legit reason to believe that Peralta, nearly 35, can improve his diminished fielding range, poor base running, and restore a healthy amount of power to his swing?

Good luck with all of that. I’m not rooting against the guy. But when an aging player has suffered erosion in virtually every phase of his game, I’m hesitant to sign off on the “Jhonny Was Hitting Line Drives in Spring Training” narrative.

When and if Jhonny begins to shoot many line drives in real MLB games against real MLB pitchers in real MLB ballparks … then I’d be happy to holler about his resurgence.

For now, this is what we know, based on stats and facts:

— Peralta turns 35 on May 28.

— In his last 608 big-league plate appearances, Peralta has a .301 onbase percentage and .359 slugging percentage.

— And that among the 225 MLB hitters that have 600+ plate appearances since the 2015 All-Star break, Peralta ranks 203rd in slugging … 196th in OBP … 209th in OPS … 178th in home-run ratio … and is No. 196 in isolated power.  (One word: weaker.)

–We know that Peralta was minus 7 in Defensive Runs Saved at third base, and minus 1 at shortstop, in 2016. We know that since the start of the 2015 season, he’s minus 8 in Defensive Runs Saved … and is minus 15 overall in DRS. (One word: yikes.)

— We know that Peralta is a minus 6 in Base Running Runs over the last three seasons, putting him near the bottom of the Cards’ list for base-running effectiveness. (One sort of word: slowwwwwww.)

— We know that Peralta’s overall offense is 22 percent below the league average in his last 158 games. (That, based on weighted runs created plus, or wRC+)

— We know that since the ’15 All-Star break Peralta has been below the replacement level in all-around performance according to Wins Above Replacement.

Optimistic souls would at least consider the possibility of a positive turnaround for Peralta because of what he’s been dealing with the last two seasons. The broken thumb that hindered him in 2016. The respiratory ailment (and bad reaction to meds) that had Peralta batting .120 with a 33 percent strikeout rate and a 6.3 hard-contact rate before the team put the patient was transferred to the DL on April 17.

I don’t think there’s much to cling to here if you are looking for a best-case, or even a decent-case, scenario to unfold. Maybe he’ll surprise me. Maybe the “Jhonny Looked Good In Spring Training” narratives will have new life and credibility.

For now, I’m curious to see the plan for Peralta.

I don’t know how much of an opportunity Peralta will receive to show he’s deserving of additional playing time. And if Peralta is mostly sitting — starting a game every seven days, with pinch-hitting ABs thrown in — then what’s the point?

Peralta won’t play ahead of the current starting infielders. Not Jedd Gyorko at third base, Aledmys Diaz at shortstop, Kolten Wong at second base, or Matt Carpenter at first.

Best-case scenario: If by chance Peralta outperforms expectations and hits for hard contact at a solid rate, I could see him getting some starts at shortstop or third base … especially if Diaz remains relatively dormant offensively. After the weekend series vs. the Giants, Diaz has a wRC+ of 81, meaning that he’s 19 percent below league average offensively. But while Diaz is no wizard defensively, Peralta can’t match Diaz’ range at shortstop.

Peralta can be a second utility infielder, but what would that mean for Greg Garcia’s role?

Garcia, who bats left, doesn’t hit for power. But he has a career .377 OBP in the majors. Excellent. Garcia takes very good at-bats, as evidenced by a walk rate that’s over 14 percent in the last two seasons.  Compared to Peralta, Garcia is a far superior base runner and defender.

Despite limited playing time, Garcia has been worth about 2.2 WAR to the Cardinals since the start of last season. That’s exceptional for a bench guy. So why would the Cardinals play Garcia even less when he provides more value than Peralta?

This is the final season of Peralta’s four-year contract.

If inclined, the Cardinals can eat the remainder of Peralta’s $10 million salary for 2017.

There isn’t a one percent chance that happening until after GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny give Peralta a trial run to see if there’s any fuel in the tank.

Update: the Cardinals traded Adams to Atlanta on Saturday, and that means a couple of things for Peralta: (1) More frequent pinch-hitting appearances; (2) Peralta could get some time at first base when Matt Carpenter is given a day off. The plan is for Peralta to start taking grounders at first before games, to see how he handles it.

Peralta could also receive starts at third base if Gyorko plays first on a Carpenter day off. When he returns from the DL, Jose Martinez could reenter the first-base picture. But barring injury, Carpenter won’t out of the lineup much, so Peralta’s time at first, if any, will be limited.

For those ticked off by Peralta’s return because he’s taking a roster spot that could be going to a better option, I understand. There’s resentment because exciting young outfielder Mags Sierre was sent to the minors to make room for Peralta’s activation.

I also understand why the Cardinals feel compelled to have a look at Jhonny.

And it’s up to Peralta to make the best of the at-bats that come his way.

Peralta had a terrific weekend against the Giants, going 4 for 5 (all singles) with a walk. After his pinch-hit singles on Friday and Saturday,  Peralta started at third base in Sunday’s 8-3 win. He went 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.

It was the first inspection in the Cards’ attempt to see what Peralta can do.

Or can’t do.

If there’s nothing left …

If Peralta continues to be a liability offensively, defensively and on the bases …

If playing time is being wasted on a lost cause …

If a better player is sitting and the Cardinals decline to put their best team on the field…

I’ll borrow some of your outrage.

Thanks for reading …


More: As the Cardinals Near the Season’s Quarter Pole, Here Are 5 Key Questions

  • Mark Steinmann

    Afraid Matheny is going to give him more than enough chances to prove he can’t play. One would think the last 2 years of awfulness would be enough proof, but we all know that’s not going to be the case. It’s a bad sign that I have little hope they will handle this situation correctly

    • rightthinker4

      Mark, I share your pessimism regarding the Cardinals handling the Peralta situation. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Peralta in the lineup tonight. I’m sure Gyorko needs a day off after the exhausting day off yesterday.

  • Big T

    I wish Jhonny the best. Who wouldn’t? He is a professional.
    But unfortunately this is the gauntlet time in our schedule. Our next 20 games are home against the Giants (3), then away for Dodgers(3), and Rockies(3.) We then head home for Dodgers(4) before going to Wrigley(3). Finally we go to Cincinnati for four. These games are critical and I do not see much “experimenting” or “kicking the tires” time in here. Tough decision here but it is time to ONLY play your best and hottest players….Go Cards!!

  • This is why I hate the salary structure of baseball. They don’t always play the most worthy players because they have to have the high-salaried players PROVE they can’t play anymore. Meanwhile the meter is running on the season. The ONLY reason Johnny, I mean Jhonny, is going to get playing time is because YOU PLAY GUYS MAKING $10M PER YEAR. This despite the increasing awareness that this is a young man’s sport, and Jhonny is not young. 35 is not too old for a lot of major leaguers, but Jhonny gives little evidence of being one of them. I fear this is going to be like Holliday last season, where the problem wasn’t the player so much as the manager’s undiscerning use of the player.

    • Big T

      Allen Craig is making 11 million a year playing AAA for Boston…just saying

    • Cranky Observer

      Fixing that would require teams playing players in their prime reasonable amounts of money. Hint: “reasonable” does not include DeWitt paying himself $1 billion/year while high-performing young players get $20,000/year and sell cars in the off season.

  • Tarzan

    I hate to snark on Jhonny, but exactly what redeeming qualities does he now possess over our other infielders?
    My guess is that Dewitt hates to see his money wasted. But saving money should not be more important than playing the best infielders and winning games. Did they not learn any lessons from keeping Moss as a fixture in the lineup for way too long?

    • ken

      “snark on” him? sigh.

  • Richard Craig Friedman

    This article is the premise for the upcoming conclusion that Matheny is insane.

  • ken

    perhaps if the cards had made gyorko the regular/starting 3rd baseman to begin the season, management would’ve been that much closer to seeing their way clear to easing peralta out the door when he had to go on the disabled list (or sooner, even).

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  • Jim Parisi

    Sorry Bernie but I disagree. Facts don’t lie and the facts, as you noted, tell us Peralta is done. Sierra was this years version of Willie McGee, how can Mo not see it?

    Another ugly loss last night and if nothing changes we’re in for a lot more. The bullpen needs help in a big way. Why is Broxton on this team? And you can put Socolovich and a couple of others in the same category. A smart GM would take some of his spare outfielders and bolster the pen but unfortunately we’re stuck with Mo.

    I know you’re a big fan of Mo but please step back and look at how many millions of dollars he has wasted on players like Broxton, Pena, Wiggington and the like.

    • UofIx3

      Cards’ exposure on the bad deals has been minimal–these guys are/were not making much. If your mistakes are on backup catchers, spare infielders and bullpen fodder, you’re doing a good job.

      Real mistake was re-signing Braxton in the first place. Cut Broxton and bring up Montgomery. I’d give Socolovich a little longer–he’s been effective last couple of seasons unlike Broxton.

      • Jim Parisi

        Mo just gave the Braves the best pinch hitter in baseball and cash for a single A infielder when the team is desperately needing some help in the pen.

        The biggest blunder of the DeWitt regime was replacing Jocketty with Mozeliak. Aside form signing Beltran and Berkman he hasn’t done a whole lot right. What major impact players has he gotten at the trade deadline to boost his teams to championships? Zero, unless you call Mujica one, which is a stretch.

        Ever notice how he always loses a bidding war with other teams for the coveted free agent and it continues, Robert just signed with the Sox.

        And let’s not forget the immortal hiring of Matheny and last years extension. Is he watching this team or shopping for bow ties?

        • James Berry

          Mo traded for Holliday and then re-signed him, not Jocketty,

          Mo traded with the Jays that brought in much needed BP help in 2011 and got rid of the over-hyped Rasmus, not Jocketty.

          Mo traded Edmonds for Freese when Edmonds was declining, not Jocketty.

          Mo signed Furcal, not Jocketty.

          Has Mo made bad trades and signed bad players? Yes. But Jocketty was and is and old school GM that uses his minor league players for trades, not development.

          As for trading for help for the pen, well why would any team with good pen guys trade them away this early in the season? Even teams that pretty well know they have little to no chance of contending don’t like making big trades this early, because it hurts their gates.

          • Jim Parisi

            We disagree, I think Mo has regressed horribly.

            Holliday never seemed worth all the dollars to me. If he had continued to put up the numbers he did the last months of 06, sure! But too little defense and a penchant for playing tight at critical moments. Good ball player but not a superstar or a guy you make the highest paid player on your roster.

            Edmunds to Freese was good, I wish the team had pursued him before Pittsburgh signed him. He seems to have put some of the personal demons aside.

            Furcal had one decent year but we ate millions of dollars thereafter, same with Berkman and Carpenter. They obviously had more than 1 good year but in the last years of their contracts they rarely saw the field with contracts of 10 million and above.

            Jocketty used proven knowledge to attain players who knew how to play in the major leagues and excelled at it. Prospects are just that with no guarantees they’ll ever see the big leagues. If a team is in a pennant race and the GM gets them a guy like Walker or Clark it is huge for morale and the opposite is true. The last several years the team has played hard and grinded to playoff contention and Mo gives them low hanging fruit at the deadline. It has to have a negative impact on the team and perhaps long term. Prospective free agents take note and stay away.

            Bottom line is with all the rants and raves I love the team. I just miss championship ball.

          • James Berry

            Furcal having only 1 decent year for us is irrelevant because he was a big reason why we won in 11.

            Not sure how or why you believe Holliday wasn’t worth the money. Compared to many that put up lesser numbers for more money over that stretch, Holliday was a bargain. Funny how so many only seem to remember the times Holliday didn’t get the big hit, but rarely remember the many times he did.

            Freese might have reverted back to his bad habits had he come back. He has said getting away from home was a big reason he overcame his problems. He had a big year last season in a platoon role. Not so much this season playing nearly every day, when not injured.

            The minors and draft under Jocketty were filled with the Jon Jays, Daniel Descalsos and Skip Schumakers. Good role/bench players, but not much else.That’s why we were constantly ranked towards the bottom with our system. Can’t trade a lot like that for much return.

  • CatfishRivers

    As expected the Cardinals are letting payroll politics get in the way of common sense.

  • Michael Hayes

    Bernie, this is off-topic but I’m hoping your as irritated as I am that the Cardinals lost out on Luis Robert. I was listening to your interview of Mo. last week on my drive into work and I really thought his being “tight-lipped” was a solid prognosticator of an eventual signing. I was heartbroken today when it was announced he was going to be a White Sock<-(?) I'm hoping your point of view on this whole situation is similar to mine so you can let them (F.O. and ownership) have it on the radio Monday morning!!!

    • Lex Talionis

      Thank space daddy that everyone can avoid St Louis, especially if you’re the fan base, you’re a nasty piece of work.