Sports

Jhonny Peralta's signing by Cardinals touches a nerve

The first major free-agent signing of the off-season, the St. Louis Cardinals' acquisition of shortstop Jhonny Peralta, has exposed still-open wounds in Major League Baseball on the topic of performance-enhancing drugs.

Peralta was among 12 players who accepted 50-game suspensions after evidence linking him to the use of banned substances surfaced during baseball's investigation of a closed South Florida anti-aging clinic. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun received a 65-game suspension for his connection to that case. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is appealing his ban.

Peralta hit a career-high .303 and made the American League All-Star team in 2012, and at least one major league player has complained that Peralta is being rewarded for drug use. Peralta's deal is for four years and $52 million. He was paid $6 million last season.

"It pays to cheat. Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use," Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler, the Diamondbacks' union representative, tweeted after Peralta's signing was announced.

"People really don't understand how this works," Ziegler added later. "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously, it's not. So we are working on it again."

The same issue arose last off-season when pitcher Bartolo Colon and outfielder Melky Cabrera signed lucrative deals after serving 50-game drug suspensions during the 2012 season. The Athletics gave Colon a $1-million raise to return to Oakland; Toronto offered Cabrera a two-year, $16-million contract, $2 million per season more than he was paid by the San Francisco Giants.

The next to cash in could be outfielder Nelson Cruz, who served a 50-game suspension for PED use last summer. Cruz, who hit 27 home runs in an All-Star season in which he was paid $10.5 million, turned down a $14.1-million qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers in the hopes of getting more as a free agent.

John Mozeliak, general manager of the Cardinals, said Monday that he sympathizes with Ziegler and others who say players are being given incentives to put up drug-aided numbers. But he also said the Cardinals were not going to appoint themselves "morality police" and ignore Peralta just to prove a point.

"Character and makeup are something we weigh into our decision making," he told reporters. "In his case, he admitted what he did, he took responsibility for it. I feel like he has paid for his mistakes, and obviously if he were to make another one, then it would be a huge disappointment."

Padres involved in minor deals

The San Diego Padres were involved in two minor trades, sending right-hander Brad Brach to Baltimore for minor league pitcher Devin Jones and dealing right-hander Miles Mikolas and outfielder Jaff Decker to Pittsburgh for outfielder Alex Dickerson.

Brach and Mikolas are the only players involved with major league experience. Brach, 27, had a 3.19 earned-run average in 33 games with San Diego last season and is 3-6 with a 3.70 ERA in 109 big league games over parts of three seasons. Mikolas, 25, had two scoreless appearances in July and has a 3.44 ERA in 27 career games.

Angels make personnel moves

The Angels hired Nick Francona, son of Cleveland Indians Manager Terry Francona and a former Marine Corps platoon leader in Afghanistan, as coordinator of major league player information and promoted baseball operations intern Jeremy Zoll to coordinator of advance scouting.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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