Updated at: 11/26/2013 1:35 PM
By R.B. FALLSTROM
(AP) ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals factored in Jhonny Peralta’s drug suspension when they negotiated a $53 million, four-year contract with the free agent shortstop.
General manager John Mozeliak said Monday that Peralta had admitted wrongdoing and served his penalty, and that the Cardinals weren’t about to appoint themselves "morality police."
"Character and makeup are something we weigh into our decision-making," Mozeliak said. "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."
Mozeliak agreed with critics that penalties aren’t strict enough.
"You do need a deterrent, and right now 50 games does not seem to be necessarily stopping it," Mozeliak said.
But he also believed attitudes have changed.
"I think Major League Baseball has done a great job trying to clean up this game, and I feel like they’ve taken great steps," the GM said.
While he used the phrase "morale police" during his availability earlier in the day, Mozeliak said he meant to say "morality." He also said the club was confident this was an isolated circumstance.
The 31-year-old Peralta was suspended for 50 games last summer following MLB’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic, which was accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. He underwent a physical on Sunday in St. Louis but did not attend the introductory news conference.
Peralta gets $15.5 million next year, $15 million in 2015, $12.5 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017. He had a $6 million salary season, when he lost $1,639,344 in withheld salary during the suspension.
St. Louis also explored a trade but wasn’t willing to part with several prospects. Mozeliak said negotiations went quickly after groundwork was laid at the GM meetings.
Peralta and Stephen Drew were the best two shortstops in free agency. Peralta was a plus for the Cardinals because they’ve got a lot of left-handed hitters and he bats right-handed.
Mozeliak said rookie Pete Kozma, the starter last year who could end up back in the minors next season, was a better defensive shortstop than Peralta. The Cardinals prized Peralta, an All-Star two of the last three seasons, for his bat.
Peralta batted .303 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 107 games last year and four times has hit 20 or more homers. Kozma hit .217 with one homer and 35 RBIs.
Mozeliak said he’d be satisfied if the Cardinals stood pat the rest of the offseason but added the team will still be listening to offers. St. Louis filled its other need last week by trading third baseman David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourgos.
Coming off a second World Series in three seasons, the Cardinals are loaded with young pitching and the lineup is set.
Matt Carpenter is set to move from second base to third base next season to make room for rookie Kolten Wong, a first-round draft pick in 2011. Matt Adams will start at first base with Allen Craig moving to right field.
The Cardinals don’t anticipate Carlos Beltran, the right fielder last year, will take a one-year qualifying offer.
"There’s still some things we can look at, there’s still opportunities over the next 6-7 weeks as we progress into the winter meetings, but if the clock stopped today we’d be pretty happy with our club."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)