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NY Mets: Minor league signing Jose Peraza gets a chance at redemption

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 6: Jose Peraza #3 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 6, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 6: Jose Peraza #3 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 6, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
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The New York Mets are taking fliers on tantalizing players and prospects so far this offseason. Infielder Jose Peraza is one of those players who could help the Mets in 2021.

The New York Mets have been active this offseason despite netting (at this point) none of the big free agents. They are rebuilding their farm system with useful players and tantalizing prospects, some of whom may get an opportunity to contribute in 2021. The Mets also signed players to minor league deals who have fallen on hard times and could use a bounceback season to rebuild their value.

One of these players is shortstop Jose Peraza. What made this deal surprising was that Peraza has had a sudden and sad decline, an unusual event for someone who is just 26 years old.

Peraza is most recognized as the former starting shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds. He earned the starting job in 2018 because of his solid bat-to-ball skills and speed. Peraza had a respectable 2018 season offensively, compiling a .288/.326/.416 with 14 home runs. However, Peraza did not improve on those numbers in 2019, which resulted in him being non-tendered when the 2019 season concluded.

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There are two substantial issues with Peraza that have precipitated this sharp decline. The first is his noticeable lack of power. Peraza has never been a power hitter, but his isolated power is one of the worst in baseball.

Even when he hit well in 2017, he had the lowest isolated power (0.66) in the MLB and led the majors in the percentage of softly hit balls (26.6%). These metrics indicated that the underlying issue with Peraza was that he struggled to make quality contact with pitches thrown to him. In a league that is becoming more dependent on the home run, a hitter who cannot hit for power is increasingly becoming a liability.

Peraza’s second issue is his infield defense. In his best season, Peraza had a fielding percentage of 9.63, the worst in the majors. He had not improved on that in 2019 or 2020. In 2019, Peraza earned a -3 defensive runs saved (DRS), and in 2020, he compiled a -1 DRS in the infield and a -2 DRS in the outfield.

These statistics, which are lugubrious, might make Mets fans wonder why the team, who had a terrible defensive infield last year, would bring in another infielder who is just as bad defensively. The rationale behind the move can be explained with two reasons: Peraza’s ability to get hot and the versatility he can provide on the team’s depth chart.

Peraza may be coming off of a down year with the Boston Red Sox offensively, but he had spurts of strong offensive outputs in 2020. His batting line of .225/.275/.342 over 34 games does not tell the whole story. Peraza had an excellent Spring Training, leading the team with 23 hits in 67 at-bats, and he carried this over into the beginning of the 2020 season. As CBS Sports reported, Peraza produced four hits and two RBIs against the Orioles on Opening Day.

For the first month of the season, Peraza also served in various roles for the Red Sox. Besides shortstop, Peraza also played second base, left field, third base, and served as a designated hitter. His versatility and willingness provided the Red Sox significant lineup flexibility, which are two traits that teams value.

Because of Peraza’s versatility and ability to get hot offensively at any time, the Mets are taking a worthwhile gamble that is very low-risk. Although the Mets have a plenitude of shortstops and middle infielders on their roster, Peraza has shown in the past that he can provide a solid bat and speed on the basepaths. We can maunder on about Peraza’s lack of isolated power, but it is also obvious that the Mets brought Peraza aboard to provide something else other than power.

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At 26 years old, Peraza is still very young. He has a lot of time to turn it around. A strong showing in Triple-A this year could convince the Mets to give him a shot at redemption in the big leagues. For Peraza to get that opportunity though, he needs to show the same offensive consistency he had three seasons ago while improving his infield defense.

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