The Best Signing of the Offseason (So Far) by the Projections

The St. Louis Cardinals have found success in recent years in a number of ways — among them, by consistently identifying players who, despite a lack of power or other overwhelming physical tools, nonetheless are capable of providing offensive value while occupying a place on the more difficult end of the defensive spectrum.

Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay are perhaps the best examples of this type. Together, they’ve recorded eight major-league seasons of 300 or more plate appearances — and, in all eight of those seasons, Carpenter and Jay have produced a 100 wRC+ or better despite never having once hit more than 11 home runs. At the same time, they’ve played the majority of their defensive innings at second and third base (in Carpenter’s case) and center field (in Jay’s). A strong foundation, that, towards creating runs and wins.

Carpenter and Jay were paid a little more than $4 million in 2014 in exchange for a combined six-plus wins — or, roughly $35 million of production. That’s almost a 1000% return on the Cardinals’ investment. This afternoon, St. Louis signed a player who — were he given a full complement of at-bats — would appear to be a candidate to provide an even higher ROI.

Infielder Dean Anna is projected by Steamer to produce a 1.9 WAR over 600 plate appearances — on the strength, mostly, of his ability to control the strike zone and play a combination of passable shortstop defense and slightly above-average second or third base. Assuming his deal with St. Louis is for the league minimum of $500K and also assuming a dollar-per-win value of about $5.5 million, Anna is (theoretically) a candidate to provide a return of ca. 2000%. That’s unlikely to happen, of course: between Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong, the Cards have a strong infield contingent. What they also have now, though, is a strong utility infielder — one who, not unlike some of his new teammates, is a candidate to provide decent offensive value relative to his position, even despite a lack of loud tools.

Credit to Kiley McDaniel for urgently bring this information to the author’s attention.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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9 years ago

This has the potential to be a nice signing by Mozeliak. Unfortunately, in my estimation, Anna immediately enters Matheny’s depth chart below Descalso and Kozma. He might even struggle to beat out Ellis for playing time, and that guy’s not on the roster anymore.

9 years ago
Reply to  steex

Ellis is not with the team anymore and there’s some reason to think that this means that DD won’t be either by the time Mo is done with the offseason. He offers nothing to differentiate himself (in a good way, that is) from Dean.

John Peter Bourjay
9 years ago
Reply to  steex

I have the opposite fear, Matheny might fall in love with all that grit and Wong might mysteriously disappear for long stretches of the season.