In the winter of 2014 Jhonny Peralta had just finished his first season as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a very successful season as he posted a 5.3 fWAR and looked like one of the best shortstops in the league. Fresh off of signing a 4 year/$53 million contract, it was the best season of his career. The contract was looking like a steal for the Cardinals but unfortunately, things derailed from there.
As most fans will remember, Peralta injured his thumb while attempting a sliding play during a 2016 spring training game. This opened the door for Aledmys Diaz to take the job at shortstop where he has flourished in the big leagues. Once Peralta was healthy he had to move to third base where he struggled defensively and his bat just never got back to it’s 2014 form.
Peralta is struggling badly to open the 2017 season and finds himself in a situation that might have the Cardinals looking to move on from him. He looks lost at the plate and Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia just look like the better options to man the hot corner.
The stats are ugly
In a matter of just 15 games this season Peralta has gone from being the teams opening day cleanup hitter to not even making an appearance in their last four games. Mike Matheny has used a combination of Garcia and Gyorko at third base.
27 at-bats isn’t typically something you can judge a player on but they’ve been a horrendous 27 at-bats to start the season for Peralta. He has struck out exactly one-third of the time and has posted a .120/.185/.120 slash line with a -12 wRC+. On top of all of that he has a hard contact percentage of only 6.3%.
This all just backs up how totally lost he looks at the plate.
As if sitting 4 games wasn’t enough
Matheny showed in Wednesday’s game just how little confidence he has in Jhonny. With Diaz needing a day off, Matheny played Garcia at shorstop and Gyorko at third base.
Mike has typically been a manager that puts a lot of stock into a batters stats against a specific pitcher. Peralta has had good numbers against Pittsburgh’s starter Gerrit Cole. For his career he had 23 at-bats while slashing .304/.360/.391 against Cole. Not amazing numbers, but plenty good enough to justify a spot in the lineup against him considering the situation. This seemed like a pretty big sign that Matheny didn’t have any interest in playing him.
In the 7th inning of Wednesday’s game, Pittsburgh had Felipe Rivero on the mound. Rivero is a very good, hard throwing lefty. With two outs and a runner on first, Garcia was coming to the plate. Matheny doesn’t typically let Garcia hit against lefties and Diaz had been used as a pinch hitter earlier in the inning. So with Gyorko already being in the game the only right handed hitters on the bench were Peralta and backup catcher Eric Fryer. Matheny chose to let Garcia take the at-bat as opposed to pinch hitting with Peralta. This is a huge red flag to me and makes it seem like Matheny has absolutely zero confidence in Peralta.
So what are the options?
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is in a tough spot with this situation. Peralta is owed 10 million dollars this season which really destroys any potential trade value that he might have had. I would expect Mo to be calling around and making an attempt to trade him but it doesn’t seem likely that any other teams will be interested.
This makes just straight releasing him the most likely scenario. If they can’t trust giving him one at-bat when he’s essentially the only right handed option against a tough lefty then this is the move that needs to be made.
Like I said, I’m sure Mo will be calling around before he makes this decision. It doesn’t hurt to try. But even if he does find a trade partner I’d expect the best case scenario would be trading Peralta with the Cardinals eating most of his remaining salary as opposed to releasing him and eating all of his remaining salary.
It’s far from an ideal situation, but one that needs a resolution in the very near future.
Thanks for reading!