It fulfills a desire Peralta stated all along. Peralta said he wanted to stay in Detroit for a long time, said it the day he joined the team in late July, having just been acquired from Cleveland pitching prospect. It seemed like wishful thinking on his part then, but it became an expectation by season's end.
Peralta's play over the final two months, especially once he moved over to shortstop in early August, won the team over.
"When we made the deal, we knew Jhonny was a solid player, by all means, and he had played well against us," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We had all the injuries and we were trying to keep our head above water, so really, our move was to address our needs at the end of last season. What he showed over there really opened our minds to the future."
The future for the Tigers at shortstop was pretty much open. They already had Ramon Santiago under contract for next season, but team officials have long expressed their belief that he can wear down with everyday play. Rookie Danny Worth made a strong impression, but his rookie season ended with a left heel injury. Cale Iorg had a torrid finish at Triple-A Toledo, but his struggles in the Arizona Fall League put his prospects very much in question.
Add in Adam Everett's early-season stint before Detroit released him in June, and four different Tigers made at least 24 starts at short. Go back further, and Detroit has had only short-term answers at short ever since moving Carlos Guillen out from the spot in 2007. Peralta's deal, while not exactly a career-making deal, stops the changeover.
"For us, we just really liked the look," Dombrowski said.
Peralta shifted from shortstop to third base in Cleveland early in the 2009 season to make room for Asdrubal Cabrera, but the Tigers found the trade-off of defense for offense by returning him to short wasn't bad at all. Peralta's reliable hands on the ground balls he reached and his accurate arm to first were strengths when paired with Brandon Inge's range at third, which allowed Peralta to shade more toward the middle of the field.
Both Inge and Peralta will be under guaranteed contracts through at least 2012 and possibly a year after that.
"I think they're a good combination together," Dombrowski said, "because Jhonny has outstanding hands and a good throwing arm -- maybe not the greatest range, but solid defense. He knows how to drive in a run, and I think they're a winning combination. We have two quality players on the left side of the infield who are established and who know how to win."
Offensively, the upgrade was evident. Peralta's 81 RBIs led all American League players with at least 40 starts at short, an impressive total considering the offensive struggles in Cleveland and Detroit. His .249 average, including a .253 clip in Detroit, was his lowest since becoming an everyday player in Cleveland in 2005, but a drop in strikeouts allowed him to be more productive with his outs.
The Tigers aren't looking at him as a middle-of-the-order bat; they're going to fill that role on the market somehow this offseason. But with Peralta batting lower in the order, possibly sixth or seventh, they like their chances at finding more balance in their lineup.
Though an agreement was long expected, negotiations between the Tigers and Peralta on a new deal took up the better part of a month, and didn't really pick up in seriousness until the past couple of weeks. Peralta was hoping to get a two- or three-year deal as a trade-off for taking a lower annual salary than the $7.25 million club option the Tigers made clear they would not pick up.
Both sides were encouraged about getting a deal done once the Tigers officially declined the option last week. Peralta will still get a sizable raise from his annual salaries on the five-year, $13 million contract he signed with the Indians after the 2005 season.
He could have looked for more on the market, but he knew he wanted to be in Detroit. He also knew he wanted to remain at short.
"He was more comfortable at shortstop," Keith Miller, one of Peralta's agents, said. "That's the position he preferred playing. And even going into the open market, the one thing that was Jhonny's preference was playing shortstop."
He was confident enough about it, and about Detroit, that he started a workout plan for shortstop designed by Tigers strength and conditioning coach Javair Gillett. Shedding some weight is part of it, but getting a quicker first step could do wonders for his range.
"I know it's the position where I want to be," Peralta said. "Now I know I need to work out really hard here in the Dominican Republic. I try to do a lot of conditioning, a lot of agility."
He already worked his way into the Tigers' long-term plans.