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.
"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.
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