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Cardinals agree to contract with free agent infielder Jhonny Peralta

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Jhonny Peralta will be the next shortstop in St. Louis.
Jhonny Peralta will be the next shortstop in St. Louis. (USATSI)

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The Cardinals and free agent infielder Jhonny Peralta have agreed to four-year contract worth $53 million, Jon Heyman of reports. The two sides were said to be "closing in" on a deal Saturday night. Here is the breakdown of the rare front-loaded contract, according to Heyman:

$15.5 million in 2014.
$15 million in 2015.
$12.5 million in 2016.
$10 million in 2017.

Peralta, 31, hit .303/.358/.457 with 30 doubles, 11 homers and 55 RBI in just 107 games last year, as he served a 50-game suspension due to his ties to the Biogenesis clinic in Florida. He "took full responsibility" for the suspension, said the team in a press release. Peralta will help replace some of the power the Cardinals lost when they traded David Freese for Peter Bourjos.

Assuming the plan remains to move Matt Carpenter to third base and start youngster Kolten Wong at second base, that leaves shortstop for Peralta, replacing Pete Kozma. St. Louis could use Peralta at third and keep either Carpenter or Wong at second while trading the other for a shortstop, but that seems unlikely.

Peralta would serve as a significant upgrade offensively over Kozma, who hit .217/.275/.273 last season, good for a 54 OPS+, or a whopping 46 percent worse than league average. The defense at shortstop will decline, though, as Peralta lacks range (he is very good positionally) while Kozma is a very good defender.

Because the Tigers did not tender him a qualifying offer, the Cardinals will not surrender a first round draft pick to sign Peralta.

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