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Should the Red Sox pick up Jhonny Peralta?

The veteran infielder is currently a free agent.

St Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Red Sox third base situation is kind of a mess. While things are generally on an upswing with this team, they still have not been able to find a positive at the hot corner. Any and all cautious optimism that Pablo Sandoval could come back as a solid player, even if he’s still not worth his contract, have been dashed over the first few months of the season. He’s spending more time on the bench than the field at this point, and the team is giving strange excuses such as fast infields and left-handed pitchers on the mound for the Red Sox are reasons for his benching. From the outside, it feels like the end of the Pablo Sandoval era is coming.

Of course, that could easily be reading too much into things. Just last week I discussed some possible scenarios that could play out with Sandoval, and some of them involve simply waiting things out and letting him sit on the bench. It’s not an ideal strategy for someone with his contract, but there’s no point in cutting him loose unless there is a preferable option available to replace him. There’s an argument to be made that one is available right now in Jhonny Peralta. The Red Sox are rumored to have “limited interest” in the infielder, but should they be more interested than they’re letting on?

Peralta’s name may sound familiar to you for a few reasons. Maybe you are just a fan of common first names spelled oddly, in which case I urge you to check out Mat Latos as well. More likely is that you recall Peralta’s PED suspension for a few years ago, something on which I have no comment. Or, perhaps, you recall how solid of a player he was for a long time. The longtime Tiger and Cardinals never got all that close to the elite tier of player, but he has long been a solid hitter in the middle infield and flew somewhat under the radar in that role.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t really been the case as Perlata is now in his age-35 season. It’s not too surprising that he’s not performing as well since, ya know, he’s a free agent on June 19. He’s a free agent because he was cut by the Cardinals earlier this month. One look at his offensive performance in 2017 and it’s no surprise that St. Louis was willing to move on. Through his first 58 plate appearances he is hitting .204/.259/.204. So, is it really worth it for the Red Sox to add him to the roster?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the obvious caveat to his performance this season is that it’s only come over the course of 58 plate appearances. Clearly, that is not a large enough sample size on which to base any expectations for the future. On top of that, he was actually pretty solid in a half-season’s worth of playing time last season when he hit .260/.307/.408 for a 90 wRC+. He is striking out more often in the small sample size this season, but his plate discipline numbers are mostly in line with his career rates, suggesting he should be able to get back to his old strikeout rates around or below 20 percent. Overall, I certainly would expect him to continue trending downward given his age, but he should be able to contribute a wRC+ around 85. Although that’s not great, it’s more than one can probably expect from Pablo Sandoval at this point.

Of course, the Sandoval situation isn’t all about offense. The Red Sox also need defense at third base, and that has to be part of the calculus when deciding whether or not Peralta is worth it. Unfortunately, there are no positives here. Peralta has spent most of his career as a shortstop and has been solid in that role. As he’s gotten older, though, he’s lost some athleticism and the glove just isn’t there any more. He spent all of last season at the hot corner, and he graded out well below-average by every defensive metric. If you’re signing on Peralta, you’re certainly not doing it for the defense.

All things considered, I’m lukewarm on Peralta at best. The offensive upgrade is undeniable, although it’s not a monumental upgrade and it’s likely around the same kind of production Josh Rutledge can give the Red Sox. On defense, it is almost certainly going to be more of the same. There is also the matter of Peralta being a righty, which is the same handedness of Rutledge. It’s not a huge deal, but ideally their two third base options would hit from different sides of the plate. Although I wouldn’t be overly upset if they decided to go with Rutledge, I would likely opt to stick with Sandoval for a bit longer while they decide if Rafael Devers will be ready for the stretch run or if they are going to make a move. Some new blood definitely needs to be injected into this situation, I’m just not sure Peralta is that guy.