It seems like Jhonny Peralta’s $53 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals is the last straw for baseball players everywhere — the clean ones anyway. Players all over baseball are bashing the fact that Peralta has essentially been rewarded for cheating after serving a 50-game PED suspension late in the 2013 season only to make it back for the postseason and play in the World Series with the Detroit Tigers before getting paid big bucks by the Cardinals.
Four years and $53 million is already an insane amount of money to give to a shortstop over the age of 30, let alone one that appears to have had a little help putting up big numbers in the final year of his contract right before hitting the free agent market.
Of course, blame shouldn’t go to Peralta; he’s taking advantage of a flawed system that rewards productive players and ignores their transgressions, even when the two are related. After all, Peralta isn’t the first player to get suspended for using PEDs and then sign for way too much money the following offseason. The Toronto Blue Jays gave Melky Cabrera a two-year, $16 million contract last offseason. But that doesn’t make it right, and something needs to be done about it.
Obviously, all 30 teams could pledge not to shell out large sums of money to players that have been suspended, but believing that all 30 teams would hold true to that pledge would be delusional. Instead, the next opportunity they get, MLB needs to negotiate with the MLBPA to put a cap on player’s salaries the season after they serve a suspension for PED use.
A 50-game suspension is not a deterrent if there’s a huge contract waiting for you at the end of the season. Those two months are more of a vacation than a punishment for players who use banned substances to get an edge, boost their stats, and set themselves up for a big payday. The players that get those big contracts are cheating the other players on the free agent market just as much as they are cheating the players on the teams they play against while using PEDs, and that can’t continue.
If the MLBPA is serious about getting steroids out of baseball then they should be willing to agree to prevent suspended players from making large sums of money immediately after their suspension. For players like Cabrera and Peralta, cheating has paid off, quite literally, and ending the financial incentive to cheat is the next step in getting steroids out of baseball.