The Cardinals parted ways with their former All-Star shortstop on Friday.
Along with a major shakeup to the coaching staff, the St. Louis Cardinals announced on Friday that they’ve activated second baseman Kolten Wong from the 10-day disabled list and designated infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment.
Peralta, a 15-year veteran and three-time All-Star, was extremely effective during his first two seasons in St. Louis, earning MVP votes during his first season with the Cardinals in 2014, then starting at shortstop in the All-Star Game in 2015. He went downhill after the first half in ’15, though, posting a .243/.306/.325 slash line with four homers in 268 post-All-Star break plate appearances that season. At the age of 33, he started 147 games that season, and manager Mike Matheny was widely criticized for allowing him to wear down.
Peralta suffered a hand injury during spring training in 2016, and he never really regained his previous form. After debuting on June 7, Peralta hit just .260/.307/.408 with eight homers in 313 plate appearances, struggling with a conversion to third base as Aledmys Díaz maintained a stranglehold on the shortstop position after his return.
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Though he performed decently in spring training this season, Peralta couldn’t replicate that success during the regular season, hitting just .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances while missing nearly a month due to a negative reaction to medication. He’d lost regular playing time at third base to Jedd Gyorko, and while he was the team’s most successful pinch hitter, going 3 for 7 in those opportunities, he obviously wasn’t doing enough at the plate or in the field to make himself more valuable than utility infielder Greg Garcia or rookie Paul DeJong.
Peralta’s designation for assignment frees up even more 40-man roster space if the Cardinals decide to promote guys who are not currently on the 40-man, such as Harrison Bader, Luke Voit, José Adolis García, and Jack Flaherty, from their minor-league system later this season. The 40-man was already down to 38 players before Peralta’s DFA, and righty Alex Reyes is still on the 10-day DL after having Tommy John surgery earlier this spring, meaning that the Cardinals could put him on the 60-day DL at any point and free up a roster spot without any consequences.
It remains to be seen what the Cardinals plan to do with DeJong, who they insisted on giving everyday playing time for the entire stretch during which Wong was on the DL–literally, he started every game for which he was available at first pitch. With the exception of a pinch-hit homer that he hit in his first career major-league at-bat at Coors Field and a 2-for-4 performance in his first career start, DeJong hasn’t hit well in the big leagues, posting a .244/.244/.390 slash line with 13 strikeouts in 41 at-bats.
While the start of his career has been less-than-stellar, it wouldn’t seem that it’s been poor enough for the Cardinals to decide that his absolute ceiling is as a bench player–not when he’s just 23 years old and has only one full professional season under his belt. With that said, it’s difficult to know what they plan on doing with him now, because it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll supplant Wong at second, Díaz at short, or Gyorko at third exceptionally frequently.