DENVER -- The Rockies' signing of utility infielder Daniel Descalso to a two-year, $3.6 million contract on Tuesday represents a small but potentially important departure from the roster construction of the last couple of years.
Since Jason Giambi departed after the 2012 season, the Rockies' bench has been an avenue for inexperienced players to earn opportunity. This winter, however, the Rockies have said they believe if they're healthy, they have playoff-caliber offensive talent to challenge for a postseason berth. Such teams tend to want at least one reserve who is experienced in the postseason. Descalso, 28, spent his first five seasons with the Cardinals, which means he has played in 44 postseason games, appeared in the World Series twice and has a ring from 2011.
A slot opened for a backup infielder when the Rockies traded Josh Rutledge, their onetime starting second baseman, to the Angels last week for right-handed relief pitcher Jairo Diaz.
"We're trying to get the right type of guys involved here, and that's a big reason why we're bringing Daniel in," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "In short order, he's built a reputation in the game as a tough, smart player. We talk about those things all the time. We're striving to get better and better in those areas, and he's going to add to that. He's played a prominent role on a big stage."
The left-handed-hitting Descalso has played 200 games (91 starts) at third base, 174 games (110 starts) at second and 114 games (88 starts) at shortstop. He also has nine games (three starts) at first base, and once had the unique experience of starting at all four infield positions over a three-day period. In 2014, Descalso batted .242 with no home runs and 10 RBIs and was non-tendered after the season. He is a career .243 hitter with a .313 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 111 RBIs in 529 games.
"I looked at the season that they had last year, before all the injuries, the success that they had, and now my versatility could fit into that," Descalso said. "The more we talked the more it felt like a good fit."
General manager Jeff Bridich said he talked with Descalso during last week's Winter Meetings.
"In San Diego, we even talked about if there was an outfielder's glove that might fit, and he mentioned that he pitched last year and said, 'I'd even be willing to catch,'" Bridich said. "He's got a really solid, professional understanding of who he is as a Major League Baseball player.
"Daniel's baseball IQ is very high. His skill level in a lot of ways is very high. That'll be a welcome addition to the ballclub."
While Descalso gives the Rockies another lefty bat off the bench, he actually has hit left-handed pitching better (.262, .343 OBP, .696 OPS in 1,093 plate appearances) than right (.238-.305-.338 in a much smaller sample, 287 plate appearances). In 2014, Descalso hit .364 with a .475 OBP in 40 plate appearances against lefties, and .211 and .294 in 144 plate appearances against righties.
"I don't care if it's a lefty or a righty on the mound, I'm going to go up there and try to have a good at-bat," Descalso said. "I've always tried to take the same approach and just go up there and compete."
In another move, the Rockies announced that they've received Minor League outfielder Noel Cuevas from the Dodgers to complete the trade that saw right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio depart Colorado. Cuevas has hit .262 with a .318 OBP in 416 Minor League games. Cuevas batted .231 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 131 games at Double-A Chattanooga last season.
Bridich also said Tuesday that the Rockies are working on acquiring starting pitching -- their top offseason priority -- but nothing was imminent.