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Why non-tendering Daniel Descalso made perfect sense for the St. Louis Cardinals

In five MLB seasons with the Cardinals, Descalso slashed .243/.313/.341 with the Cardinals. With recent acquisitions and Descalso's inability to play adequate shortstop defense, St. Louis understandably parted ways with the utility man.

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As reported late last Tuesday and promptly reflected on by Ben, the St. Louis Cardinals non-tendered Daniel Descalso, the infield utility man they drafted in the 3rd round of the 2007 amateur draft. Despite showing promise in 2011, a year in which he appeared in 148 games and slashed .264/.334/.353 over 375 plate appearances, Descalso never really lived up to the promise of his minor league numbers and his obvious inability to play an adequate defensive shortstop (-14.7 career UZR at SS in 782.0 innings) made his projected 2015 salary of $1.4 million easily expendable. His probable replacement, Dean Anna, was presumable acquired at or very slightly above the league minimum (~$500,000)—roughly one-third of Descalso's would-be 2015 price tag.

With fWAR placing Descalso's career worth at 0.3 over 529 games, combined with the fact that he has been in the negatives the last two seasons (2013: -0.3; 2014: -0.1) and is projected by Steamer600 to put up a non-Earth-shattering 0.3 fWAR in 2015, moving on from Descalso already makes a significant amount of sense. However, with any move involving the 25-man roster, especially one involving a utility player who will back up the shortstop position, discussing the departed player's replacement(s) is/are still necessary.

1) Dean Anna (Bats: L, Throws: R, Positions: SS/2B/3B/LF/RF)

Immediately after Anna's signing, I published a pretty comprehensive player profile on him, but we, as a team, really have not had much to say about him since then. Many will say because the 25th man isn't all that excited or important, but I, to put it simply, beg to differ. In the November 12th profile, the one thing I feel like I glossed over was his defensive ability, specifically at shortstop. Well, upon further review of some highlights and statistics and after focusing in on quotes from Anna himself, I really believe Anna can stick at the position, especially as the backup if Jhonny Peralta is able to prove as durable in 2015 as he was in 2014. Descalso received nine starts at the position last season, and projecting his defense out to 150 games played, his UZR would have been an abysmal -47.0.

When asked about his best position in this Q&A with BucsDugout, Anna responded with the following:

"Wherever. Second base is the easiest. I like playing shortstop a lot. Shortstop's fun. Third base is whatever to me -- it isn't hard, you just react. Shortstop's definitely the hardest, but I've been playing shortstop a lot. I don't like just playing all second base, because you want to stay loose and you want to feel comfortable out there. So I'll probably take a few ground balls here and there at short just to stay sharp."

At 27 years of age, Anna has spent quite some time in the minors, and according to Baseball-Reference, he has played 257 minor league games at second and 214 at short. Thus, he has plenty of experience at the position. Unfortunately, we don't have access to defensive metrics regarding the position, but every report I've tabs him as "holding his own" at short, even at the MLB level.

The three following case reports, one flashing his arm, one showing off his hands, and the last highlighting his reaction time, are a pretty good representation of his capability at shortstop:

If you listen to the commentary on this play (yes, I am aware it is John Kruk), they state that Anna can "pick it at shortstop," and how Joe Girardi is "comfortable he feels with him out there [at shortstop]."

Projection: Steamer600 puts Anna at 1.6 fWAR in 2015.

2) Ty Kelly (Bats: S, Throws: R, Positions: 2B/3B/LF/RF)

We reported the news of his trade from Seattle, put together a player profile on him, searched and extrapolated key moments from his Twitter history, had him on VEB Podcast Episode 9 for over 30 minutes, and finally, had our ever-talented artist create a must-see Cardstoon on his first experience with John Mabry. Needless to say, we have covered the acquisition of the intriguing utility man pretty thoroughly.

Will Kelly make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training? It's complicated. This is largely dependent on whether or not the Cardinals believe they need to acquire a right-handed bench bat that is able to fill in at first base as well as right field. Also, there is an outside shot he performs well enough in Jupiter to warrant a shot in the bigs, especially if those in charge of player development agrees with many at VEB that Randal Grichuk could benefit from some more time in Triple-A.

Though he's able to play multiple positions, shortstop has not been one of them. Because of this, Kelly has virtually no chance of unseating Anna (or Kozma for that matter, see below) from his spot on the 25-man. Despite not being able to play shortstop, Kelly still provides much more versatility than Descalso, along with offensive upside, as he is a switch-hitter who hit 15 home runs at the Triple-A level last season.

Projection: Steamer600 puts Kelly at 2.1 fWAR in 2015.

3) Pete Kozma (Bats: R, Throws: R, Positions: SS/2B/3B)

Is it likely that Mr. Kozma, the former 18th-overall pick who found himself designated for assignment late last season, makes the 25-man roster out of Spring Training? Not very likely at all, but then again, this is the same player who started in game one of the NLDS largely because of small-sample-size success against the league Cy Young and MVP last season. The one thing Kozma has on his resume that Descalso's is lacking is quality shortstop defense, as he has accumulated a UZR of 10.4 over 1287.0 big-league innings at the position.

Projection: Steamer600 puts Kozma at 1.1 fWAR in 2015.

Bottom line

All three will be at or slightly above the league minimum in 2015 (prorated of course since not all three will make the 25-man). All have a respective skill set that Descalso has not shown to possess, and two of the three (Anna, Kelly) have significantly more upside as well, especially at the plate. Anna is an ex-Triple A hitter of the year, and Kelly's ability to control a strike zone and get on base is simply remarkable. Though we will always remember Descalso's contributions to the Cardinals, it made perfect sense—both financially and tactically—to non-tender him at the arbitration deadline last week. For all we know, the money saved by letting Descalso go could have already been reallocated to the bullpen with the signing of Matt Belisle.