(BaseballStL) — Mark Ellis was officially announced as the newest member of the St. Louis Cardinals Monday, but General Manager John Mozeliak held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the signing of the 36-year-old second baseman.
Speaking candidly to reporters, Mozeliak said Kolten Wong enters spring training as the club’s second baseman, but he expects Ellis to have ample chances to contribute.
“It gives us that protection at second base, I wouldn’t be afraid to have him take ground balls at third base as well,” the GM said. “The flexibility he brings to our roster will allow him to get ample amounts of at-bats. Will it compare to an everyday job? Probably not.”
Ellis, who was last with the Dodgers, has a reputation as not only a steady player, but an excellent clubhouse presence as well.
This reputation, along with the fact Ellis will add much-needed experience to one of the league’s youngest clubhouses, prompted Mozeliak to call him the right type of player for the Cardinals.
“We’re a very young club. So getting somebody with some experience, with some success of winning that has the background or the pedigree that Mark has, it was just a natural fit for us if we could pull it off,” he said.
The deal for Ellis developed far faster than anyone in St. Louis’ front office expected. Many of the remaining second basemen had made it clear they were desiring starting jobs.
The 36-year-old Ellis, speaking on a conference call Monday, expressed his appreciation at the Cardinals being upfront with their plans, and ultimately decided the club fit what he had in mind for the remainder of his career.
“Frankly, I think the one good thing we have going for us is a place where people feel comfortable that they have a chance to win, and more importantly a chance to compete,” Mozeliak said.
Ellis won’t just be playing for opportunity. His $5.25 million for 2014, plus a potential $1 million in incentives will certainly help ease any concerns about lack of playing time from the veteran.
The hefty contract for a support player raised some eyebrows, but Mozeliak said the state of the market made such a contract necessary.
“When you look to try and improve, when you think about bench players and just your overall 25 man roster, at times the cost of playing poker goes up,” he said. “Frankly, it’s fortunate that we got him.”
Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma move to the bubble in an infield that is just about filled out. The GM did say he envisions a scenario where both players still make the club, though most believe one survivor is more likely.
As for the remainder of the offseason, the Cardinals look to have calm waters ahead. The club has managed to address all it’s major concerns without giving up any young pieces in return. Though there are seemingly no items remaining on the to-do list, Mozeliak said the club will keep an eye out for bargains.
“One of the things we’ve always prided ourselves on is being opportunistic, and if something should come up that makes sense, we’ll pursue it,” he said. “I think the free agent market is starting to slow down or lack a lot of players at this moment, so therefore it could change maybe how the trade market looks in the month of January.”