The Detroit Tigers were put on notice this week as to how aggressive the powers that be at MLB will go after suspected PED violators. Jhonny Peralta’s name has been on the list since its release, just like Ryan Braun’s was, and there it remains.
Any day now, any hour really, the anvil could drop on Peralta. The penalty for a first-time offender is a 50-game suspension. Peralta’s case is a bit more complex than the average bear.
He not only is the clear option at shortstop for a team that expects to be playing meaningful games deep into October, but he’s having a strong bounce back season on the cusp of his free agency.
The Tigers are 99 games into their 2013 season. 63 remain. Hopefully this is all one big misunderstanding and Peralta is free of any guilt, but that remains to be seen. In the event that he is guilty as charged, let’s look at the potential fallout.
Detroit doesn’t really have a player to replace Peralta at short, assuming Omar Infante remains at second base, his most natural position. How valuable could Danny Worth be? Or fellow minor leaguer Argenis Diaz? The drop-off would be substantial.
Would Peralta take the 50-game suspension so as not to cut his own free agency throat, and become eligible again just before the playoffs commence? How rusty would he be? Would he really do that to Detroit? What if it takes another few weeks for his verdict to come down and now he’s done for the rest of the regular season? If he appeals the decision, how long would that process take? These are some of the questions being floated around buzzing offices at Comerica Park.
How aggressively can the Tigers chase a contingency plan? See what I did there? One idea that might have some merit is targeting Philadelphia’s Chase Utley, a rock solid 2nd baseman. With that, Infante could slide over to short, a position he has played before, and order could be restored. And it’s not as if Infante is a master of turning the double play with a runner flying at him with bad intentions (see Colby Rasmus incident). He might welcome the position change.
Utley is heading into his free agency year, just like Peralta and Infante are. With the Phillies scuffling this year they would be potentially wise to grab a few prospects in exchange for Utley while they can, and who knows, they might re-sign him in the offseason and get the face of their franchise right back.
Utley has long battled injuries but is a dynamic player when he is on the field. He is hitting .286 for the Phils with 13 homers, 36 RBI’s, and 7 steals. He plays some highlight reel 2nd base to boot. He is making north of $15M this season, a pro-rated price tag the Tigers could easily pick up.
The Tigers would probably have to cough up something substantial in return to acquire Utley for the stretch run. Perhaps a package involving Avisail Garcia and one of the Tigers’ up and coming pitchers such as Jake Thompson. The Tigers might also consider delivering one of their young catchers as part of a deal. There are options.
If Peralta is forced out for one reason or another, Utley would provide smooth cover to that transition. He could slide right into Jhonny’s 6th slot in the batting order and the Tigers would still be in business up the middle.
The problem remains that the Tigers really can’t pull this trigger until they are made privy to the fate of Peralta. Could you imagine the clear admission of guilt if the Tigers made such a deal before any announcement on Peralta is made?
Indeed, the timing is overly awkward. The Tigers could be left holding a big, empty bag if they don’t have the right information.
It sure would be nice to know what is being said off the record right now.
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