Peralta not typical Cardinals acquisition, SS

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The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

Peralta is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, though it was one abbreviated for a suspension for violing the major-league drug policy.

The Cardinals felt that he provided significant value to their quest to get back to the World Series in 2014.

Unusually large deal for the Cardinals

The Cardinals do not have a history of plucking free agents from other teams at a hefty price.

Peralta’s deal will be the largest the Cardinals have ever given to a free agent from another team in terms of total value (remember that Matt Holliday was already a Cardinals player when they signed him to a seven-year, $120 million deal).

Peralta vs Cardinals Shortstops
Last Season

The last time the Cardinals gave a contract of four years or longer to a player from another team was when they signed closer Jason Isringhausen away from the Oakland Athletics in the 2001-2002 offseason.

They haven’t plucked away a hitter from another team with a deal of that length since signing Ron Gant from the Reds to a five-year deal in the 1995-1996 offseason.

If you’re looking for a reason why the Cardinals made such a move, the chart on the right illustrates their desire for an offensive-minded shortstop.

Peralta hit .303 with 11 homers last season. The Cardinals have only had two players, whose primary position was shortstop, hit at least .300 with double figures in home runs— William Bones Ely in 1894 and Edgar Renteria in 2002 and 2003.

Peralta also shores up a Cardinals weakness from last season. They hit .238 with a .672 OPS against left-handed pitching, both of which ranked in the bottom five in the majors in 2013.

Peralta hit .352 with a .964 OPS against lefties last season. That was only the second time in his career that he hit better than .275 against left-handed pitching.

The move gives the team some stability. The Cardinals have used six different opening day shortstops the last six years. That's more than they used in their previous 26 seasons combined. The Cardinals and the Twins are the only two teams to use a different opening day shortstop each of the last six years. From 1982 to 2007, the Cardinals used only five different opening day shortstops, tied with the Orioles for the fewest of any team.

Line-drive success

Different statistical sources have differing numbers for performance on line drives (due to differing definitions). But they are in agreement that Peralta performed well above his norms when hitting one.

Peralta When Hitting Line Drive

Peralta got hits on 90 percent of his line drives in 2013, the highest success rate in the majors (an average player gets hits on about 70 percent of his line drives).

Peralta’s success wasn’t necessarily due to hitting line drives harder. One thing shown in the chart on the right is that Peralta actually hit line drives classified as “hard-hit” (by video review) less often than he had in the previous three seasons.

In this case, less turned out to be worth more for him.

Lee Singer also contributed research to this post