Tribe locks up Peralta through 2010

Tribe locks up Peralta through 2010

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Jhonny Peralta was just a young kid in low A ball when he began to compare himself, in a respectful way, to Alex Rodriguez.

"Hey, it's a good start," Bill Rego, Peralta's agent, said. "It's a good role model."

Peralta might not be pulling in A-Rod-type money just yet, but he now has A-Rod-type security.

The Indians have signed Peralta to a five-year contract through the 2010 season with a club option for 2011, the club announced Friday morning.

The base of the contract will pay Peralta approximately $13 million over the five years, and the option is worth $7 million, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The shortstop also received a $1.25 million signing bonus.

While the base is less than the $15.5 million base Peralta's teammate, Victor Martinez, pulled in last spring with his five-year deal, it's worth noting that Peralta will be receiving the second-highest salary among pre-arbitration shortstops in Major League history.

Only Nomar Garciaparra, who received a five-year, $23.25 million deal from the Red Sox in 1998, made more before arbitration than Peralta will.

That Peralta was willing to give up his arbitration years is significant, but Rego said he and his legal team, which includes Mitch Frankel and Jeff Deutsh, analyzed the Tribe's history and found the offer to be quite fair.

"It wasn't hard to give up [the arbitration years]," Rego said. "The package was consistent with what the Indians have done in the past."

So was the idea behind it.

The 23-year-old Peralta is the latest Indians player to be signed to a long-term deal to protect the franchise's financial viability down the line.

Last April, the club locked in Martinez, pitcher C.C. Sabathia and designated hitter Travis Hafner to multiyear deals.

The Indians are currently believed to be in long-term contract talks with the agents for Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee, though general manager Mark Shapiro said such discussions all come with a self-imposed deadline of Opening Day, if they're going to occur this season.

For now, Shapiro is happy to have Peralta on board for a while.

"This is a long-term investment to keep what I think will be a championship core together," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "It's a significant gesture by ownership and a significant gesture by Jhonny."

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Peralta has certainly earned his right to be considered part of the team's core.

In 2005, he broke out with a monster season at the plate, hitting .292 with 35 doubles, four triples, 24 home runs and 78 RBIs in 141 games.

Not bad for a guy playing his first full season.

And especially not bad for a guy playing his first full season while following in the footsteps of the ever-popular Omar Vizquel.

Because of his big year, Peralta had a feeling the Indians might come calling about a long-term deal. Sure enough, they did a couple weeks ago.

"I knew something like this could happen," Peralta said, "because they like to do it. I had a good year, so that's what they like to do."

Peralta's 24 home runs established an Indians single-season franchise record for homers by a shortstop, breaking the record of 23 set by Woodie Held in 1961.

But Peralta didn't just look good when compared to Tribe shortstops of the past. His numbers held up pretty well against today's top talent, as well.

His .521 slugging percentage ranked second to Miguel Tejada, and he had just two less home runs than the Baltimore slugger. Peralta's mark was also the second-highest slugging percentage in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau's 1948 mark of .534.

Even if all the years of his new deal are accounted for in a Tribe uniform, Peralta will still only be 29 when the contract runs out.

"I'm young," he said. "I can play for five years, then be a free agent and see what happens."

That Peralta will be around the Indians for the long-term is nothing new, actually. He's been with the organization since he was 16 years old.

The Indians signed him in April of 1999 out of their Dominican Academy, and he made his debut that summer in the Dominican Summer League.

An injury to Vizquel opened the door for Peralta to become the Tribe's primary shortstop in the second half of 2003. Back at Triple-A Buffalo in 2004, he was named the International League MVP, batting .326 with 15 homers and 86 RBIs in 138 games.

With his new deal, Peralta is financially secure. That means he can fulfill his goal of buying his mother, Rosa Marte, a house in the Dominican.

"It's good money," he said. "I feel good. I feel happy. But I can't change my personality. I have to be the same guy and work hard."

That approach doesn't surprise Shapiro or Rego, who have watched Peralta's career blossom, despite the often-challenging obstacles put in front of him.

"He walks with this air of confidence," Rego said of his client. "He always knew this day would come. I couldn't be happier for him. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.