Cards close to landing former Tigers shortstop Peralta

As the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly close in on a multiyear deal with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta, it’s amazing they apparently have solved two of their major holes in a matter of days – at shortstop and center field – without losing any of their pitching.

The sentimental side of me hated to see third baseman David Freese go to the Los Angeles Angels. I’ll never forget his postseason heroics as he lifted the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series title in a performance that even Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson would have admired.

But after an All-Star season last year, something happened to Freese’s bat speed. After batting .293 with 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in, in 2012, he slipped to .262, 9 and 60 this season.

With Freese gone, Matt Carpenter can switch to his natural position of third base. Hopefully rookie second baseman Kolten Wong will be ready for prime time next spring, although Daniel Descalso is an adequate backup.

Former Angel Peter Bourjos, who was acquired in the Freese deal, is regarded as one of the best center fielders in all of baseball, so suddenly the Cardinals gained much-needed speed and athleticism. Look out, Jon Jay.

Now on to Peralta, 31, a two-time all-star. Start sweating bullets, Pete Kozma. Peralta hit .303 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 107 games in sparking Detroit to the ALCS. St. Louis is apparently not too concerned that Peralta missed 50 games last season in conjunction with his involvement in MLB’s Biogenesis scandal, but returned late and performed well for the Tigers in the postseason.

According to ESPN.com, Peralta was seeking a four-year deal for more than $50 million. Terms of his deal with the Cardinals weren’t immediately available.

With the retirement of Chris Carpenter, the loss of Freese and the apparent loss of Carlos Beltran, St. Louis had $45 million to spend.

Let the wheeling and dealing continue – and hope that GM John Mozeliak keeps that young, deep and talented pitching staff intact.

–Gordon Engelhardt

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