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Is Anna the Cardinals New Castro?

For each of the last two winters, the St. Louis Cardinals bestowed a 40-man roster spot on a free agent signee that led me to scratch my head as to why.

In that regard, I see Dean Anna as the new Angel Castro.

Let’s back up 11 months.

Coming off a decent 2013 season at the Triple-A level for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a strong winter ball campaign in his native Dominican Republic, Castro, a 31-year-old career minor leaguer, was signed by St. Louis to a surprising major league contract last December 11.

Castro reported to Cardinals big-league spring training, but was rocked and quickly re-assigned to minor league camp. Before the players left Jupiter, the right-hander was removed from the 40-man.

Though Castro opened the 2014 regular season in the rotation of Triple-A Memphis, by June he was in the bullpen, and in early August, his contract was sold to Oakland. Hence, Castro’s Cardinals career quietly ended with no regular season innings pitched for St. Louis.

Maybe I am being hard on Anna by the comparison, as he does have his supporters.

Take Fangraph’s projection model, called Steamer. It suggests that Anna would deliver 1.9 fWAR over 600 plate appearances next season. In all fairness, they also acknowledge that level of MLB activity is unlikely for the infielder.

Still, to say I am surprised is an understatement.

In 2014, Matt Adams delivered 1.9 fWAR, just behind Kolten Wong at 2.0. I can’t even squint and see Anna in that company.

After all, Anna will turn 28 before Thanksgiving and the former 26th-rounder has enjoyed a generally-unremarkable career to date. Most recently, he batted .207 in Triple-A last season and was dropped from the 40-man roster of two different organizations in the final three months of the 2014 regular season.

Sure, he had a Pacific Coast League batting title in 2013 in a hitters’ park in Tucson. Parent San Diego was so impressed they traded Anna to the Yankees two months later for an A-ball reliever with a career ERA of 4.39.

After a brief MLB debut in pinstripes to start the 2014 season before a return to the minors, Anna was claimed off waivers by the Pirates. A month later, the Bucs dropped him off their 40-man, but this time, he went unclaimed, opening the door for free agency this fall.

As I said at the time of his signing by St. Louis, my best guess (hope?) is that Anna is penciled in to help cover the losses of Jermaine Curtis, Luis Mateo and Greg Miclat at Triple-A Memphis rather than as a replacement for fellow left-handed hitter Daniel Descalso.

The Cardinals have the means to add a much more proven infielder than Anna. Here is hoping they travel that path.

If Steamer proves right instead, I won’t be steamed. I will be stunned, though.

Addendum: On Thursday night, just before the Rule 5 protection deadline, the Cards acquired yet another infielder – second/third baseman Ty Kelly – via trade from Seattle. Kelly’s best attribute is his on-base proclivity (career .387 mark), though his agility limits his potential at second as does a lack of power for third.

Like Castro the winter before, Kelly joins a 40-man roster for the first time. The 26-year-old does have just under 200 games of Triple-A experience.

Perhaps Kelly and Anna will compete for the right to replace Descalso or maybe they will strengthen Memphis up the middle in 2015. I am still hoping for the latter.

The unanswered question is whether the Cardinals’ negative experiences with Ty Wigginton and Mark Ellis the last two years altered their direction such that Anna and Kelly are “Plan A” or will the club will add a more proven middle infielder for the 2015 Major League roster?

Given non-tenders will not be disclosed until December 2nd, it may take a while for this to play out. Looking out a little further, I would be very surprised if both infielders remain on St. Louis’ 40-man at this time next year.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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13 Responses to “Is Anna the Cardinals New Castro?”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Supposedly Anna is a pretty good defensive SS. If the Cardinals don’t keep Kozma, then a back up SS is needed. I haven’t heard that Kelly can play SS, and the word is that Kozma is on the way out (no options remaining). So I would welcome Anna for nothing more than his ability to play SS at a decent level. Anything to save us from the defensive disaster named Daniel Descalso.

  2. blingboy says:

    So far Mo has traded away 3 pitchers. What’s to be made of that?

    The main thing left to address is a platoon partner for Adams. Some people say a RH bench bat, but I think that roster spot has to double as the RH 1B guy. Bernie and some others think Mo is looking for a big name front of rotation type starter. I don’t know. WE will have Wainwright, Lynn, Lackey and Wacha if healthy. Then there is Gonzales and Martinez. Somebody would have to go I think if Mo pulls the trigger on something like that.

  3. crdswmn says:

    Pitching is an area of depth. It is also an area that many other teams are deficient in. The Cardinals are one of the few teams with plenty of pitching depth to use as trade chips.

    It’s difficult to see how the Cards could spend big money on a front end starter and afford an extension of Heyward. I think the Lester/Scherzer rumors are just speculation driven by the trade of Shelby Miller. It’s going to take more than vague rumors or the ruminations of PD writers to convince me that Mozeliak is serious about signing a big name starter.

    • blingboy says:

      What I meant is that pitching isn’t any more of an area of depth than it was last winter, yet Mo wouldn’t turn loose of any of it then. What is different now that explains his willingness to trade away pitching now? If you count Kelly, he’s moved 4 young pitchers in 4 months.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Descalso is a strong defender at 3B, a good backup for Carpenter. Ellis will not be resigned, so next year’s two infield backups may turn out to be Descalso and Kozma.
    Beyond Kelly and Anna, there is also Greg Garcia, who played SS in college with Wong.
    It would seem profligate to release Descalso as some columnists predict. The Cards could trade Descalso and replace him with Greg Garcia.
    Brian probably wonders why the Cards have added Anna and Kelly to the 40 man roster. One reason is we have capacity there. Giving them slots on the 40 man may be a low cost way to induce them to sign with the Birds. With Mateo, Miclat, and Curtis leaving and Kozma out of options, we needed some new middle infielders for Memphis.

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    Smart move of the Red Sox to land Hanley. Only 5 years. Mo must be saving ammunition for Scherzer or Lester.

  6. Bw52 says:

    Rumor has it that Pablo Sandoval going to ed Sox also.conflicting reports ……………one says Sandoval signed…….another says he is still weighing offers.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    It used to be guys would stay around for decades, now they are sought after and not just by the Astros, in this instance Dan Kantrovitz.
    Jared Odom might take over the amateur draft or Matt Slater or Mike Girsch. A variety in in-house possibilities.

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