Welcome to the Cleveland Indians Trading Post, a weekly segment meant to help my fellow Tribe fans sort out which of the few familiar faces left on the team won’t be around much longer.

This week’s potential trade bait is Jhonny Peralta.


The basics

Signed in 1999, Peralta made his MLB debut in 2003 but did not claim a permanent place on the Indians roster until 2005, when he replaced Omar Vizquel at shortstop.

Now Cleveland’s starting third baseman, he’s hitting .247/.330/.420 with four homers and 22 RBI so far this year. He’s making $4.6 million in 2010, with a $7 million club option for 2011. Also noteworthy: his teammates apparently call him “Guitar,” for reasons I can’t even begin to imagine.


Why he has value

He’s (usually) an above-average hitting infielder with 25-plus homer potential. Interested yet?

After a miserable start this year (.154/.308/.269 with one homer and four RBI over the first three weeks of the season), Peralta has hit .287/.341/.484 in his last 31 games. That’s nothing to shake a stick at.

But Peralta’s ceiling is much higher. In 2005, he hit .292/.366/.520, smacking 24 homers and racking up 4.5 WAR. A New York Times article said he was a better hitter than Derek Jeter and Michael Young. If he could do that at age 23, there’s no reason he can’t do it at age 28.

His defense might be a bit of a problem. After posting the first positive UZR of his career in 2009, Peralta’s glove—never a real point of pride amongst Indians fans—has been worse than ever this season.

UZR has him at -6.4 so far in 2010, with a nauseating -21.2 UZR/150. The former is the third-worst figure in the league, and the worst of any third baseman in the game. UZR ranks his range (-8.5) as the second-worst in all of baseball, better only than Matt Kemp.

Most Clevelanders (myself included) will happily tell you that it’s impossible to underestimate Peralta’s glove, but the reality is he probably won’t be this bad for long. He’s never put up defensive numbers this awful before, and he spent most of his career playing shortstop, a much more demanding position.

There’s no denying that his D has been bad, but for a team in need of an offensive upgrade, the trade-off would probably be worth it.


Why he’s expendable

It makes zero sense for the Indians to pick up Peralta’s option for next year, so he’ll be gone after the season anyway. The Tribe has all but raised the white flag for 2010, so keeping him around for another four months doesn’t really do the team any good.

If we passively let him walk instead of actively shipping him out, it’s unlikely that we’ll get anything in return. Offering Peralta arbitration before he hits the market would be risky, and there’s no guarantee that Cleveland would get draft pick compensation if they did (there’s no guarantee that he would qualify as even a Type B Free Agent).

But most importantly, Peralta isn’t very well liked in Cleveland. From the get-go, he was saddled with the unenviable task of replacing Omar Vizquel, a fan favorite and the last major holdover from the “Glory Days” of the 90’s.

Jaded by the flawless fielding of an 11-time Gold Glove winner, Tribe fans have been particularly perturbed by Guitar’s deficient defense (seriously, how did he get that nickname?). And while Vizquel’s bat never boomed, he was fast and could get on base—plus, did I mention he won 11 Gold Gloves?

In addition, Peralta’s inconsistency and sloppiness have made him the perfect symbol for everything that’s gone wrong with the team since the rebuilding process began. He’s a scapegoat, but the reputation isn’t entirely undeserved.

No Clevelanders would moan and groan at his departure, as we did with CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez; most of us would consider it a favor.


Where he’d go

Any discussion of teams in need of a boost from the hot corner has to start with the Chicago Cubs.

After averaging 29 homers and a .919 OPS from 2005-09, Aramis Ramirez has completely collapsed in 2010, hitting .162 with just hour homers and a nauseating .496 OPS. If the Cubs are serious about making a run at the playoffs, they’ll need to patch up the gaping hole in their depth chart.

A couple time zones away, the Oakland Athletics are also in need of an offensive upgrade.

The A’s already have a Cleveland export, Kevin Kouzmanoff, playing third base. He’s been anemic offensively this year, but his superb defense gives him a larger margin of error than most hitters would have.

He would be better used replacing struggling DH Jack Cust, a player who has so far failed to fulfill his one role (hitting). Such a move would also nullify Peralta’s fielding follies.

The Peralta sweepstakes might add fuel to a division rivalry: a few hundred miles south, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are dealing with similar struggles from Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar. A steady infield bat could save the struggling Halos (the Rally Monkey can’t do everything by himself).


What do you think? Will the Indians trade Peralta? Where will he go, and who would we get in return?


More Trading Posts

May 13: Austin Kearns

May 20: Jake Westbrook

May 27: Mitch Talbot

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