A day Arizona Diamondbacks fans have long dreaded but expected has arrived. On Saturday, the D-backs traded 34-year-old outfielder David Peralta to the Tampa Bay Rays for 19-year-old catcher Christian Cerda.
After making some mechanical adjustments over the offseason, Peralta slashed .248/.316/.460 with 12 homers, 41 RBI and 1.5 fWAR for the D-backs this year in 87 games. His .212 ISO — a measure of raw power — was the second-highest of his career.
In 20 games in the Florida Complex League for the Rays, Cerda was batting .315/.464/.519 in 69 plate appearances. The D-backs like his makeup, his ability to control the strike zone and his power potential. They figure to save about $3 million in the deal.
Peralta made his Diamondbacks debut on June 1, 2014, which made him the longest-tenured major-league player in the organization. He quickly made a name for himself in Sedona red, going 12-for-28 with a homer and three doubles in his first seven games. He has remained with the team ever since as a staple in the lineup for nearly a decade.
Peralta’s Diamondbacks career is about more than statistics and accolades, though. His journey to get to the big leagues with Arizona was even more unprecedented than his longstanding success once he got there.
Born in Venezuela, Peralta was scouted and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher. When Peralta made his Appalachian League debut in 2006, Cerda — the player he was just traded for — was three years old.
Peralta made 18 appearances for the Johnson City Cardinals in 2006-07, logging a 5.67 ERA. Ultimately, Peralta didn’t last 70 professional innings before a pair of shoulder surgeries effectively ended his pitching career.
Unwilling to let go of his dream of playing professional baseball, Peralta signed a contract with the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings — an independent league team in Harlingen, Texas — in 2011.
With unwavering tenacity, a willingness to work at McDonald’s for gas money, and countless text exchanges with Diamondbacks scout Chris Carminucci — who still leads the team’s independent league scouting efforts to this day — Peralta found his way to a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks. He played his first game with Single-A Visalia in July of 2013. Less than a year later, he was a big-leaguer.
Peralta has not just been any big-leaguer; he’s been a damn good one. With a .283/.340/.463 career slash line that spans nearly a decade with the Diamondbacks, Peralta ranks third in franchise history in hits, sixth in homers, fourth in doubles, second in triples and fourth in RBI.
He also won a Silver Slugger award in 2018, when he slashed .293/.352/.516 with 30 homers and 87 RBI. He followed that up with a Gold Glove award in 2019. He has been well-regarded as an outfielder throughout his career.
None of that is what defined Peralta’s career as a Diamondback, though. It was those little things he did that made you smile — like the time he got Zack Greinke of all people to drive the bus.
Or when he insisted on being the first one to high-five players on their way back to the dugout…until Gregor Blanco did this.
Or when he did this dance during a rain delay in Cleveland.
Or just the way he embraced his brand through the years. He was the Freight Train — a nicknamed cued by Diamondbacks play-by-play broadcaster Steve Berthiaume in 2016, when he observed Peralta’s reckless abandonment on the basepaths.
Peralta was never the best player on his team, but he was a type of franchise player that comes around rarely — maybe even more rarely than the ace of a pitching staff or the anchor of a lineup. The D-backs outfielder was well-known among fans, reporters and the community at large as being extremely generous with his time. He wore mics, he took pictures, he signed autographs. The community he built in Arizona won’t forget him anytime soon.
It doesn’t look like his former team will forget him soon, either. Jake McCarthy followed his sixth-inning double on Saturday with Peralta’s signature choo-choo motion.
If it’s any consolation, the Peralta trade opens the door for more opportunity for young outfielders like McCarthy, as well as possible minor-league call-ups such as Stone Garrett, Dominic Fletcher and Corbin Carroll.
“There’s a new generation of fan favorites that I hope are starting right now,” general manager Mike Hazen said. “I hope people see that on a nightly basis with some of the guys that are going out there and competing the way they are today.”
Hazen is right: There is a new wave of young players on the horizon, and they have a lot to offer on the field.
But in terms of being the kind of person, teammate and community ambassador that Peralta was for the Diamondbacks, they have a hard act to follow.
Top photo: Kelley Cox/USA Today Sports