ST. LOUIS -- As he took questions for the first time since the organization added Mark Ellis, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak admitted that he was surprised at how quickly an agreement was reached with the 36-year-old infielder.
When Mozeliak left the Winter Meetings on Thursday, he expected it to be some time before the organization filled its need for a right-handed-hitting second baseman. He fully anticipated that Ellis would continue seeking starting opportunities elsewhere before potentially falling back on a part-time role with the Cardinals.
Yet, by the time the weekend was over, Ellis had made his decision. Signing for a reported base salary of $5.25 million, Ellis joins an organization that was upfront with no promise of regular playing time.
"Frankly, I think the one good thing we have going for us is that it's a place where people feel comfortable and have a chance to win -- and more importantly, a chance to compete," Mozeliak said. "We've always prided ourselves on having a competitive camp, but not a huge camp. And I think in Mark's case, he looked at his opportunities."
While Ellis was brought on primarily to serve as insurance behind second baseman Kolten Wong, Mozeliak said Ellis will likely get some work at third base in case he is needed there. Ellis, an 11-year veteran, has started only seven Major League games at third base, all of those coming in 2002.
Having Ellis take ground balls at shortstop will be less of a priority. The Cardinals will keep a backup shortstop -- likely either Daniel Descalso or Pete Kozma -- on the roster.
As for the money spent to sign Ellis, Mozeliak noted that the price tag was market driven. Ellis is in line to be the seventh-highest paid player on the Cardinals' roster even though he is not projected to be an everyday player.
"I also think that when you look at trying to improve, when you look at bench players and just your overall 25-man roster, sometimes the cost of playing poker goes up," Mozeliak said. "And frankly, I feel fortunate that we got him."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.