Tigers decline Peralta option; return possible

Tigers decline Peralta option; return possible

DETROIT -- The Tigers are still working on a contract extension for Jhonny Peralta, but his $7.25 million option is now officially out of the question. The team confirmed Tuesday it has declined the option, making the infielder a free agent.

The move means little right now as far as Detroit's chances for retaining Peralta, which seem to be improving.

"We remain optimistic that a deal can be worked out between Jhonny and the club," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement.

That feeling appears to be mutual.

"We are encouraged and are also optimistic," Seth Levinson, one of Peralta's agents, told MLB.com in an e-mail Tuesday morning.

The Tigers retain exclusive negotiating rights with Peralta through Saturday, and they'll keep talking. Peralta and his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, can talk with other teams during that stretch, but they can't talk contracts. Once that timeframe ends, free agents are free to sign with any team.

The two sides have been talking since season's end, but haven't been able to bridge the gap on financial terms. The Tigers were not going to sign Peralta for anything close to the salary in his option. Though expectations last week centered on a two-year contract for a lower average salary, that was far from a done deal.

Peralta's option was the last remaining piece of the five-year, $13 million contract he signed with the Indians after the 2005 season. Cleveland did not plan on retaining him, so it traded Peralta to Detroit on July 28 in exchange for Minor League pitcher Giovanni Soto.

At 28, Peralta isn't at a point where age should be a concern. While the Tigers have young shortstops in the system, they come with question marks. Danny Worth is coming off season-ending surgery on his left heel, while Cale Iorg seemed to be on the verge of losing prospect status until a late-season tear showed signs of an offensive bat to go with his solid defense. Iorg is currently in the Arizona Fall League.

The Tigers saw the potential for Peralta to return to shortstop when they acquired him from the Indians in late July. What they saw once he moved over there upon Brandon Inge's return a couple of weeks later convinced them he could handle it full-time. He made three errors in 46 games there, 44 of them starts, while posting a .984 fielding percentage and turning 26 double plays alongside a variety of Detroit second basemen.

The Tigers know what they're getting with Peralta defensively: His range isn't strong, but he consistently catches what he gets to and has a reliable arm. They also know that his value is in his run production, good for 81 RBIs in 148 games this year between Cleveland and Detroit.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.