We say this all the time about the Rays, but it rings more true than ever in 2022: How do they do it? OK, they always come up pitching depth, but this season the lineup has been hammered with injuries, with Wander Franco, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Harold Ramirez, Francisco Mejia and Mike Zunino all currently on the injured list — with Kiermaier, Margot and Zunino all on the 60-day IL. That’s your starting shortstop, an entire starting outfield and both of your Opening Day catchers. Oh, and Brandon Lowe, who hit 39 home runs last season, only recently returned from a two-month stint on the IL.
But here they are, currently holding a slim lead for the third wild-card spot. How desperate are they for a bat? With Randy Arozarena getting a DH day on Saturday, the starting outfield consisted of Luke Raley (hitting .220 with a .681 OPS), Brett Phillips (.147 with a .475 OPS) and Josh Lowe (.221 with a .627 OPS). Roman Quinn hit for Raley and he’s batting .189.
Enter the longtime D-back Peralta, who is hitting .248/.316/.460, good for a 119 OPS+. He’s been even better against right-handers, hitting .268/.325/.498, which is essentially a mirror of what Shohei Ohtani is doing at the plate for the Angels (.251/.345/.481). So they basically get half of Ohtani’s offensive production for a rookie ball catcher who is light years away from the majors.
Even though Peralta turns 35 in a couple weeks, his defensive metrics are still good, with an 89th percentile ranking in Statcast’s outs above average (although a minus-1 in defensive runs saved). The Rays love good outfield defense and the Diamondbacks have strictly played Peralta in left field the past few seasons, but that’s been Arozarena’s regular position. The Rays notably haven’t played Arozarena at all in center field, so that doesn’t appear to be an option. With Kiermaier out for the rest of the season and Margot not eligible to come off the IL from his knee sprain until Aug. 20, that likely still means Phillips and Lowe in center field, with Peralta either playing some right field or taking most of his at-bats as a DH against right-handed pitchers.
Wherever Peralta, the Rays get some much-needed offensive help. It’s not a huge impact bat, but given the options out there who aren’t named Juan Soto, this is a solid pickup.
For the Diamondbacks, Cerda is a 19-year-old catcher playing in the rookie level Florida Complex League and hitting .315/.464/.519 in limited action so far (69 plate appearances). Cerda was born in the Bronx, but signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019. There is some offensive potential here and with more walks (15) than strikeouts (12) this season, he’s at least showing some feel for the strike zone. But this is a pure lottery ticket.
Usually, teams settle for a couple low-level pitchers in this kind of deal, so at least give the Diamondbacks credit for thinking outside the box. Still, given the lack of decent hitters available, it’s a little surprising the Diamondbacks weren’t able to get a little more for Peralta. Check back in two years.