Descalso’s time with Cardinals comes to an end

Becoming a free agent should allow Daniel Descalso an opportunity to find a team that can offer him more playing time.

Jeff Curry/Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — Not that I was trying, but Daniel Descalso admitted that I got him.

After the Cardinals clinched the NL Central on the final day of the season, Descalso was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying he had been part of 10 clubhouse celebrations in his four-plus seasons with the club.

When I told Descalso that I counted 11, he thought for a bit and agreed. "You got me," he said.     

We determined that he had not included their first celebration in 2012, which was understandable. The Cardinals had lost their game that night and Mike Matheny told the media he was sending the team home. The players, however, stuck around and when the Giants beat the Dodgers, the Cardinals had clinched the second wild card. Their ensuing celebration was muted compared to the rest, but Descalso said it still counted. After all, he had told the Post-Dispatch that "no matter how many times (you celebrate), it’s still just as fun."

Well, Descalso was part of a lot of fun times with the Cardinals, but that came to an end late Tuesday when the club did not offer him a contract for 2015 before the 11 p.m. CT non-tender deadline. Descalso now becomes a free agent who can sign with any team.

Descalso was a valued member of the club’s four-year run of reaching the National League Championship Series, and for the Cardinals, bidding farewell isn’t easy. But their decision makes sense for both team and player.

Descalso was in his second year as an arbitration-eligible, and even though his playing time dipped in 2014, his $1.29 million salary might or might not have decreased in the arbitration process. With the arrival of Jhonny Peralta and the emergence of Kolten Wong last season, Descalso’s playing likely would have continued to diminish in St. Louis and he already had dropped from 358 plate appearances in 2013 to 184 in 2014. The Cardinals do not need to pay a backup infielder with 10 career homers an eight-figure salary, especially since they have added a couple of utility types in free agent Dean Anna and minor leaguer Ty Kelly this offseason. With Pete Kozma and Greg Garcia also possibilities to handle a utility role, the Cardinals are flush with backup infielders who are less expensive than Descalso.

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For Descalso, becoming a free agent should allow him an opportunity to find a team that can offer him more playing time. Because he is a free agent, a team does not have to pay him (this year) as much as he would have made in arbitration.   

Even if he is not an everyday-type player, he’s in his prime at 28, brings a lefty bat, is a productive pinch hitter and provides solid defense all over the infield. All the winning and postseason experience (44 games) he experienced with the Cardinals should make him a welcome addition for many teams, too.

Descalso had his share of memorable hits in St. Louis, including a two-run, two-out, ninth-inning single that tied Game 5 of the 2012 NL Division Series against the Nationals after the Cardinals had trailed 6-0 and set the stage for Pete Kozma’s game-winning hit. He also went 2 for 2 in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, including a leadoff single in the Cardinals’ two-run 10th.

A third-round pick out of UC Davis in 2007, Descalso hit .243 with 10 homers in 529 games over five seasons with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals tendered contracts to their other arbitration-eligible players: Lance Lynn, Jon Jay, new reliever Jordan Walden, Peter Bourjos and Tony Cruz.

While the core of the club remains intact, the roster has undergone numerous changes in recent months. Gone from the 2014 Opening Day roster are Shelby Miller, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly and, in all likelihood, free agent Pat Neshek. Jason Motte and Mark Ellis, who started 2014 on the disabled list, are not expected to return, either.

Bench coach Mike Aldrete has left since the end of the season, taking the same position with the Oakland A’s. The club promoted assistant hitting coach David Bell to bench coach and hired Bill Mueller to be John Mabry’s new assistant.

The Cardinals also announced Tuesday that Chris Correa will take over as director of scouting for Dan Kantrovitz, who took an assistant GM’s job with the A’s. Correa started working for the Cardinals in 2009 and had been director of baseball development. Luis Morales was promoted to assistant director of international scouting.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.