Tigers acquire Peralta from Indians
Club hopes infielder can provide boost to injury-riddled offense
ST. PETERSBURG -- No, Jhonny Peralta isn't a blockbuster move heading into Saturday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But for a rookie-laden, injury-riddled lineup, he's the exact help the Tigers need right now, and arguably needed the last two days.
By acquiring Peralta Wednesday night from the Indians for Minor League left-hander Giovanni Soto, the Tigers added a veteran presence in the middle of the order and at third base. They also gave themselves a chance to regroup amidst what remains a division race after losing starting third baseman Brandon Inge and run producers Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen to the disabled list all last week.
"Right now, it gives us another veteran presence in our lineup that's extremely young," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We've gotten guys on base, but we have to drive them in, too. And sometimes you have to have more of a veteran type guy who has a better chance to do that."
The Tigers have played against Peralta for years as American League Central opponents. Now they're hoping he can give them a boost down the stretch in their hopes to stick in the race for the division.
The Indians also sent cash to help cover the remainder of Peralta's salary for this season. He's under contract at $4.6 million this season, with a $7.25 million club option for 2011 or a $250,000 buyout.
The 28-year-old Peralta hit .246 with seven homers and 43 RBIs in 91 games of a season shortened by injury, including a .276 average on the road. It has been a downturn of a season after playing more than 150 games in each of the last three years, and it has had him struggling since the All-Star break.
"He's hasn't done quite as well lately, probably not playing as much," manager Jim Leyland said. "We hope this refreshes him a little bit."
When he's healthy, his track record shows run production, including 172 RBIs combined in 2008 and '09. That's what the Tigers looked to add in a hurry once the middle of their lineup lost proven bats to attrition and lost ground the last two weeks in the division race.
Wednesday's lineup spoke plenty about the challenge the Tigers are facing. With speedy leadoff man Austin Jackson given the day off, fellow rookie Will Rhymes batted leadoff in his fourth Major League game. Jeff Larish, called up with Rhymes on Sunday after the injuries to Ordonez and Guillen, batted third at designated hitter ahead of All-Star slugger Miguel Cabrera.
Those two combined with Johnny Damon to produce a two-run opening inning Wednesday, but it's not what they expect long term.
"We're trying to do something to help our ballclub, give us a shot," Dombrowski said. "We're trying to do what we can to stay in there, so we think this helps our club. He's a solid big league player, and of course we've got a lot of young players. It won't be long until Carlos and Brandon come back, but it's a situation we're trying to keep afloat."
Leyland had much the same sentiment.
"This guy's a professional hitter. He can knock in a run," Leyland said. "We're taking a shot, because we need to get some more veteran presence. We're taking a shot, really, adding one more guy in there that has had some history of knocking in runs. We're hoping."
Peralta will take over at third base while Detroit awaits Inge's return from his broken left hand. His original timetable a week ago called for him to miss 4-6 weeks, but Dombrowski said Wednesday in announcing the trade that they're now optimistic Inge can beat the timetable, possibility getting back in two weeks.
Whenever Inge returns, Leyland said Peralta will get some games at shortstop, where Detroit has been platooning veteran utility infielder Ramon Santiago with rookie Danny Worth. Peralta will also have some games at designated hitter.
Scott Sizemore, Detroit's Opening Day second baseman, and utility man Don Kelly have been handling third in Inge's place.
The Tigers have had interest in more than a few hitters this week, including slugger Adam Dunn. Detroit's situation, though, has usually led to the same conclusion: Teams ask the Tigers for a top prospect or two, and the Tigers say no.
That could change leading up to Saturday's deadline, but Dombrowski couldn't afford to do nothing in the meantime.
"You always consider things, but we're not in a position where we're going to give [top prospects] for a couple months rental situation," Dombrowski said. "So we're trying to make some moves that help us a little bit. I don't have anything else right now, but we're trying to make some moves.
"I really think Carlos will be back in two weeks, and I think Brandon might even be ahead of that time. But we think this is a chance to help us right now and maybe win a few more ballgames and give us a chance to stay in there."
Soto wasn't among those top prospects, but he's been earning some high regard. After going 4-0 with a 1.18 ERA in the Gulf Coast League last summer, the 19-year-old went 6-6 with a 2.91 ERA at low Class A West Michigan, striking out 76 batters over 82 2/3 innings.
Soto was scheduled to make his next start for the Whitecaps on Thursday against Lake County, the Indians' affiliate in the Midwest League. Cleveland assigned Soto to Lake County, so he could conceivably switch clubhouses and face West Michigan.
The Tigers made room for Peralta on the 40-man roster by designating outfield prospect Wilkin Ramirez for assignment. They'll add Peralta to the 25-man roster once he gets to the Tigers. He's scheduled to arrive in time, but barely, for Thursday's series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.