If in fact Jhonny Peralta is suspended on Monday, the Tigers will have 53 games left in the season, and again assuming the reports are true that Peralta will receive and accept a 50-game suspension, that will leave exactly three games left in the season (the Tigers finish the season with three games in Miami against the Marlins), and then any playoff games, should they qualify.
The Tigers could bring Peralta back at that time, even though he would likely be rusty after having not played in a game in nearly two months, or they could make the decision to leave him out for the remainder of the year, similar to the decision the Giants made last year after Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games and would have been eligible to return in late September.
Here are six things to keep in mind that the Tigers are probably considering as well…
1) Peralta will not have played in a Major League game in what amounts to two months, and will likely be rusty. Assuming the suspension comes Monday, he’ll play on August 4th, and would not be able to play again until September 27th. That’s an awfully long layoff to be able to come back from, about the equivalent to an off-season, and think about how long it takes hitters to catch up to pitchers in spring training.
2) The Tigers already went out and got Iglesias, the team’s shortstop of today and the future. If they were going to rely on some combination of Argenis Diaz and Danny Worth to fill the void, the discussion is likely a much easier one, but would the Tigers be as eager to bench their new acquisition and defensive whiz for a few weeks of a rusty Peralta?
3) Iglesias could really struggle down the stretch. The flip side to adding Iglesias is that while he’s hitting .330, he’s not that good of a hitter, and some combination of his .374 average on balls in play regressing to the mean coupled with a youngster tiring late in the year could mean an offensive void at shortstop, a position that this season has been helping carry the team.
4) Either way, Peralta is probably better than any of the infield reserves the Tigers would keep instead of him; Ramon Santiago, Don Kelly, and any September call-ups like Worth. And of course, that role can’t be overlooked, as Infante has been on the disabled list with an ankle injury, Miguel Cabrera continues to battle hip and back soreness, and Iglesias is a rookie.
5) The Tigers are VERY sensitive about clubhouse makeup this season. They’ve diligently avoided adding any player that could potentially rock the boat. They have a veteran group of players focused on winning, and any distractions are being pushed out as quickly as possible. Would bringing Peralta back, whatever upgrade he may be, be worth the added scrutiny and attention that a PED-scandal player would bring?
6) Peralta doesn’t have to be completely idle. While suspended for the games, Peralta would still be permitted to use team facilities, including the field, so long as he’s cleared out by the time the gates open for games, based on prior enforcement of the rules. In addition, according to the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement, a player suspended for 50 games is eligible for one minor league assignment (also without pay) that can last up to ten days. The minor league season doesn’t go into late September, but does go up to Labor Day, and the Erie Seawolves are a good bet to make the Eastern League playoffs. This would allow Peralta to get ten games of live pitching in midway through the suspension, to try and stay sharp.