Cards Sign Anna to 40-Man; Two Minors Signees

The St. Louis Cardinals signed a veteran minor league infielder to a Major League contract and inked two minor league relievers to deals as well.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced the addition of four free agents, including the re-signing of Memphis infielder Scott Moore to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp in February. More on the Moore return in this November 10 article.

Anna

The biggest signing among the four may be infielder Dean Anna, as the only one of the group added to the team’s 40-man roster. The Cardinals have also agreed to terms with minor league pitchers Marcus Hatley and Miguel Socolovich. All have been invited to 2015 Major League spring training camp.

Anna was acquired in trade by the New York Yankees last November and added to their 40-man roster. The 27-year-old made the Major League club to open the season and in his MLB debut on April 4, he started at shortstop for a resting Derek Jeter. As a right-handed reliever, Anna even took the mound for the final inning of a 16-1 blowout loss to Tampa Bay on April 19 and allowed two runs.

Three days later, he was back in the minors. After appearing in just 12 games in pinstripes while batting .136 (3-for-22), the left-handed hitter was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, never to return to the Bronx.

In early July, the native of Harvey, Ill., was designated for assignment and was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, then assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Just under a month later, Anna was outrighted by the Bucs, clearing waivers and becoming a minor league free agent following the season. In 65 games between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Indianapolis in 2014, Anna batted just .207 with two home runs and 21 RBI.

It was quite a contrast to 2013, when Anna led the Pacific Coast League in batting with a .331 mark and finished second in the Triple-A league with 38 doubles, earning selection to the league’s All-Star team. He had been a Texas League All-Star the year before. 2013 was his final summer in the San Diego system, after the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder first joined the Padres in the 26th round of the 2008 draft.

In seven minor league seasons, Anna has a consolidated line of .279/.380/.417/.797 in 619 games.

Hatley

In 2014, Hatley was 2-6 with a 4.60 ERA in 45 appearances out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs after scoring his first non-roster spring camp invitation. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander struck out 58 batters in 47 innings pitched and walked just 13 for the I-Cubs.

The 26-year-old first reached Triple-A in July 2012. In 2009 and part of 2010, Hatley had pitched for the Peoria Chiefs when it was the Cubs’ Class-A affiliate. The California resident owns a career mark of 24-24 with a 4.25 ERA in 251 career minor league games since being drafted by the Cubs in the 39th round in 2006.

This season, Socolovich compiled a 2-2 mark with a 3.64 ERA in 51 games with Triple-A Las Vegas after signing a minor league contract and receiving a major league camp invitation with the Mets. In the Pacific Coast League this season, the 28-year-old fanned 68 batters in 59 1/3 innings and issued 19 free passes.

Socolovich

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound native of Caracas, Venezuela is well-traveled. Socolovich began his professional journey with the Red Sox as a 16-year-old free agent signee in 2004. He moved to the White Sox system in 2008-2011, ironically in a trade for a man he may replace in Memphis in 2015 in David Aardsma.

In 2012, Socolovich reached the bigs briefly, appearing in a combined 12 games for Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs, moving from the former club to the latter on waivers that August. His MLB ERA is 6.06.

Socolovich ventured overseas in 2013, pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan’s Central League before joining the Mets this past season. This winter, the reliever is in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he has struck out 14 batters in 10 innings over nine appearances for Caracas.

Walton’s take: OK, now that I have the necessary biographical information out of the way, here is my view. Barring considerable injuries, I do not expect these moves will have a material impact on the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals.

For those who see Anna as a potential Daniel Descalso replacement, I wish you would aim higher. While they both hit left-handed and can cover the same positions defensively, there is no reason to believe Anna would be a step up, other than he would be cheaper.

More likely, Anna will serve as a Triple-A substitute for minor league free agents Luis Mateo and Greg Miclat, providing middle infield depth. Another reason that depth is likely going to be needed is that incumbent Redbirds shortstop Pete Kozma is out of options, making a Memphis return less likely.

I am not wild about the use of a 40-man roster spot on Anna, but it may have been necessary to get him signed. Further, if Descalso and outfielder Shane Robinson are non-tendered as I expect, that would create two more roster openings in three weeks. Before necessary Rule 5 protection additions and other major league free agent signings occur, the Cardinals are carrying 36 players on the 40-man, including Anna.

All one needs to do is look at the Roster Matrix to note five relievers have left the upper levels of the Cardinals minor league system in the last few days - plus two major leaguers in Pat Neshek and Jason Motte. Minor league bullpen free agents are Aardsma, Jose Almarante and Jeremy Berg. The Cards also lost two other Triple-A relievers via outright waivers last week in Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro.

While the Cardinals have several pitchers ready to step up, some fresh blood is also needed. To me, the Hatley and Socolovich signings simply appear to be partially restocking the bullpen cupboards with minor league veterans who have been through the wars.

In the earlier article on the Moore re-signing, I noted that the need for a third baseman at Memphis is enhanced by the fact that Jermaine Curtis is also a free agent and the bat of Double-A third sacker Patrick Wisdom does not appear ready for Triple-A. Of note is that Jonathan Rodriguez is playing at the hot corner in winter ball after a final-week regular-season promotion to Memphis as a first baseman.

The Roster Matrix has Who is Where

Every one of the 267 players in the Cardinals system is documented by level and position as is each free agent and every transaction all year long. The place is the Cardinals organization Roster Matrix, free at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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