Why Jhonny Peralta Is a Great Fit for the New York Yankees

Jason CataniaMLB Lead WriterNovember 19, 2013

Jhonny Peralta could handle shortstop or third base for the Yankees, and his bat would play at either.
Jhonny Peralta could handle shortstop or third base for the Yankees, and his bat would play at either.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For the New York Yankees, he could be Jhonny on the spot.

Bad joke aside, Jhonny Peralta in pinstripes in 2014 does, in fact, make a lot of sense. While the 31-year-old has played shortstop primarily in his career, he also has experience at third base.

The left side of the Yankees infield—really, the entire infield—is in flux, and the lineup was lacking for much of last season, so a versatile player who can swing the stick like Peralta would be a very useful fit.

No wonder, then, the Yankees have expressed interest in the former Cleveland Indian, who has spent the past four seasons with the Detroit Tigers, per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:

The Yankees did make a move to shore up their infield some by agreeing to re-sign veteran shortstop Brendan Ryan, an elite defensive player who finished 2013 with the club, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Still, Ryan—a career .237 hitter who's failed to reach the Mendoza Line each of the past two years—is nobody's idea of a solution should longtime shortstop Derek Jeter, who missed all but 17 games last season due to numerous ankle and leg injuries, once again struggle to stay healthy and handle the demanding up-the-middle position.

Jeter isn't the only Yankees infielder with injury concerns, as a wrist problem and eventual surgery essentially wiped out last season for first baseman Mark Teixeira, too.

Then there's Robinson Cano, the top name on the free-agent market, whom the Yankees are hoping to re-sign to stay at second base long-term. But if that falls through, it would be another spot on the dirt to address.

That leaves third base, where Alex Rodriguez's status for 2014 remains up in the air, given his ongoing appeal of the 211-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball after the league's investigation into Biogenesis.

Speaking of the now-shuttered Miami-area clinic that remains at the center of baseball's latest performance-enhancing drug scandal, Peralta was one of the players suspended for 50 games for being linked this past August.

While that might make the Yankees leery—would they really want another player with ties to this controversy?—the positive spin is that Peralta looked good upon returning to the Tigers over the final three games of the regular season and in the playoffs. To wit, the right-hitting Peralta went 11-for-33 (.333) with four doubles, a homer and six RBI in 10 games.

That came on the heels of one of his most productive years at the plate. A career .268/.330/.425 hitter who has reached the 20-homer plateau four times, Peralta triple-slashed .303/.358/.457 with 30 doubles and 11 homers in 107 games.

Anything remotely resembling that would be a huge lift for the Yankees, whose offense was their primary problem for much of 2013. Known for its deep, damaging lineup over the past two decades, the club ranked 16th in runs scored, 22nd in home runs, 24th in batting average and 27th in slugging.

Worse still, the team's .598 OPS from the shortstop position was fifth worst in baseball. Relying on Jeter to improve that while playing regularly would be asking for too much out of the hobbled 39-year-old.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com pointed this out in a recent mailbag:

The Yanks would love to count on Jeter to play at least half a season at shortstop, picking up some at-bats as a DH along the way. You'd probably want more power out of a full-time DH, but maybe Jeter could do the job against lefties.

Even with Ryan already in the mix, that scenario would leave plenty of action for another option at short. And while Peralta, admittedly, is not known for his defense, his bat profiles at short or even third base, were he needed to cover Rodriguez's absence for most or even all of 2014.

As Dayn Perry of CBS Sports writes of the Yankees:

...there's still a need for a guy like Peralta, who, unlike Ryan, can produce at the plate. As noted, they'll need depth at both positions, and at shortstop Peralta and Ryan could form a somewhat unconventional "offense/defense" platoon that could be determined by the starting pitcher's groundball tendencies.

Here's where this could get interesting: Obviously, the Yanks are not the only team in on Peralta, but they're not the only team in New York that's in on Peralta. Heyman notes that the Mets reportedly are interested, too.

The team from Flushing has David Wright locked in at third base, but shortstop remains an area of need for them, as well. In fact, their .561 OPS from that spot last year was not only one of the few worse than the Yankees', it was second worst overall.

Peralta, undoubtedly, has other suitors, too, and looks to be gaining some leverage as he seeks his next contract. Barely three months removed from a 50-game ban and being chased by two New York teams with a position to fill and money to spend?

Jhonny is once again on the spot.