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St_Louis_CardinalsThe rich get richer … or the Cardinals make a mistake. Depends on how you want to frame it.

Yesterday, reports surfaced that the Cardinals, after failing to find what they were looking for in the trade market, were closing in on a deal with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year deal. Today, Jon Morosi adds that it looks like it’s going to be for four years and a little more than $52 million. (UPDATE: Multiple reports are now saying it’s a done deal, pending a physical.)

Shortstop was the one glaring hole on the Cardinals’ roster, even after Carlos Beltran leaves (since they can replace him in the outfield with a healthy Allen Craig, and put Matt Adams full-time at first base – it pays to have quality depth, eh?) in free agency. With Peralta replacing Pete Kozma – assuming the deal happens – the Cardinals will improve quite a bit in the near-term.

The rare aging shortstop who has actually improved at the position as he approached 30, Peralta (who turns 32 in May) has been a plus defender at shortstop each of the last three years, according to FanGraphs. That’ll fade over the next four years, but the Cardinals probably aren’t sacrificing much defense here for a significant upgrade with the bat (Pete Kozma had a 54 OPS+ last year). Two of the last three years, Peralta has had a wOBA above .350 (fantastic for a shortstop). Then again, three of the last five years, he’s had a wOBA below .310, so there’s some downside risk here.

The biggest knock on Peralta, obviously, is the PED suspension he got last year for his connection with the Biogenesis clinic. If Peralta has indeed been a juicer – and his suspension suggests that MLB had the goods on him – there’s additional downside risk for the Cardinals. At $13 to $14 million per year for four years, this deal could quickly turn into an albatross if Peralta pulls the kind of post-PED suspension pumpkining that befell Melky Cabrera (for example).

If the deal goes down, I like it near-term for the Cardinals (which is to say, I hate it for the Cubs). They are set to really excel over the next two years without rapid decline from guys like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, and/or without massive regression from guys like Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and Matt Adams. In the latter years of this deal, the Cards might not like it. But if they keep restocking the way they have, it might not matter.

Also: think the Tigers regret not making Peralta a qualifying offer?

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