DETROIT -- Jhonny Peralta became a Tiger at the 2010 Trade Deadline with the perception of a player on a career downslide, having been moved out from shortstop in Cleveland and struggling at third base. Three years later, he has a four-year contract to play shortstop for the National League champion Cardinals.
As career turnarounds go, that's fairly strong. For someone who was originally seen as an injury replacement for Brandon Inge at third base when he came to Detroit, it was quite a pairing, which is now officially over.
Though Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander have earned the Tigers three consecutive American League MVP awards, Peralta played an underrated role in Detroit's run of three consecutive division titles. He earned an All-Star selection in 2011 and '13, and his return from suspension as a shortstop and left fielder gave Detroit one of its few productive bats of the '13 postseason. He made the plays on the ground balls he got to at shortstop and batted .292 for his career with runners in scoring position. He hit 18 home runs over the last three seasons with the Tigers either in a tie game or down a run, six of those in the sixth inning or later.
However, Peralta was in the position of watching his replacement at shortstop before he was gone. Once Detroit acquired slick-fielding rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston at the July non-waiver Trade Deadline, the succession plan was in place.
Though the Tigers opened up an infield spot last week with the Prince Fielder trade to Texas, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said it ultimately didn't change their mindset on letting Peralta go without a push to re-sign him. Though he played third base for Detroit in 2010, that wasn't an option this time around.
In the end, Dombrowski said the Tigers weren't involved in the final discussions.
"We had no further discussion on Peralta's situation when the Fielder trade was made," Dombrowski said Monday. "We still think of him as a shortstop and that's what he's looking to play, so we did not revisit that situation. And we really couldn't revisit it until we decided upon Cabrera and [Nick] Castellanos and what we were going to do there, and we still have not made any final decision on that at all."
That decision on whether to keep Cabrera at third base or move him to first will likely have a major impact on the rest of the lineup, depending on which position the club has to fill. Castellanos could move back to his old position at third base if Cabrera shifts over, or he could compete for the starting job in left if Cabrera stays at third. So the Tigers could have an opening in left field, first base, third base or designated hitter, the latter if Victor Martinez were to shift from DH to first base.
Whichever position the Tigers look to fill, they're expected to pursue a left-handed hitter to balance out their lineup after Fielder's departure took a lefty bat from the middle of the order.
Though Peralta wanted to return to shortstop, the Tigers weren't sure enough about that to believe he would've turned down a one-year, $14.1 million contract, the offer the club would've had to extend to him to qualify for an extra Draft pick at the end of the first round if he signed elsewhere. The lack of Draft-pick compensation reportedly played a big role in Peralta's value on the open market, drawing the Cardinals to a four-year deal reportedly worth $52 million.
"We just were in a position where we thought that at $14.1 million, we were not prepared to pay him that," Dombrowski said. "And we thought at the time that he might accept that, although it's apparent that he wouldn't now."
The qualifying offer decision came down three weeks ago, before the market on Peralta became apparent. Once it did, it became a similar situation to Placido Polanco, who signed a three-year deal with the Phillies as a free agent after the 2009 season following the Tigers' decision not to offer him arbitration. Polanco's agents at the time, Sam and Seth Levinson, convinced the Tigers that they were prepared to accept an arbitration offer if it was extended.