St. Louis Cardinals Non-Tender Infielder Daniel Descalso


The St. Louis Cardinals declined to tender a 2015 contract to infielder Daniel Descalso on Tuesday night, making him a free agent and effectively ending his tenure in St. Louis. The 28-year-old Descalso had been with the big-league club since September of 2010 and accumulated a .243 average with 10 homers and 111 RBI over 1223 at-bats spanning five years for the Cardinals. In the most limited full-season action of his career in 2014, Descalso hit .242/.333/.311 with 10 RBI over 161 at-bats in 104 games.

It became quite clear in November that Descalso wasn’t in the cards when the team decided to give minor-league journeyman Dean Anna a big-league contract and traded for Seattle Mariners minor league infielder Ty Kelly, who they promptly added to the 40-man roster. That, coupled with Pete Kozma moving in front of Descalso on the infield depth chart once again during the stretch run in 2014, made Descalso very expendable. The Cardinals figure to open next season with a five-man bench, which should include a backup catcher, outfielder Peter Bourjos, and another outfielder, likely Randal Grichuk. That leaves two spots to be filled by the likes of Kozma, Anna, Kelly, or perhaps first baseman Xavier Scruggs.

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While at the surface, players like Descalso seem to be a dime a dozen, he had several valuable skills that won’t necessarily be easily replaced. First of all, he was exceptionally versatile, seeing action at every infield position in 2014. He was willing to fill in at positions that didn’t necessarily come naturally to him, serving as the primary backup at shortstop, where he played in 114 games during his time with the Cardinals, for several years despite being a natural second baseman. He also became the primary backup at first in 2014 following the deadline trade of Allen Craig to the Boston Red Sox.

In addition, he’s a lefthanded hitter who is comfortable coming off the bench. Those types aren’t always easy to find, and it’s fair to wonder if the Cardinals are getting a little bit cocky by banking on players like Anna and Kelly, who have never experienced success at the major-league level, to seamlessly fill Descalso’s role.

It was a bit surprising that the Cardinals decided to tender a contract to catcher Tony Cruz on Tuesday. With the addition of veteran minor-league backstop Ed Easley and prospect Cody Stanley to the 40-man this offseason, it seemed unlikely that Cruz was going to be firmly in the 2015 plans. With Tuesday’s decision, though, he’ll at least be sticking around through spring training, and it becomes less likely that the Cardinals will bring in a veteran catcher like Jose Molina on a non-roster deal to battle for Cruz’s job this season.