12/17/2013 6:36 P.M. ET
Cardinals feel fortunate to be able to sign Ellis
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
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."
Mozeliak likely finished with offseason shopping
ST. LOUIS -- Calling the organization's offseason activity "short" and "quick," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak spoke on Tuesday as someone who appears to have wrapped up his work constructing a 2014 team that seems poised to compete for the World Series championship it fell just short of this past season.
A day after the Cardinals announced the signing of Mark Ellis to a one-year contract, Mozeliak held a news conference at Busch Stadium in which he offered an overview of the organization's winter work. After striking a deal with the Angels to acquire center fielder Peter Bourjos, Mozeliak filled holes by signing free agents Jhonny Peralta and Ellis. The latter transaction met the Cardinals' final offseason need.
"When you look back sort of at our end-of-the-year meeting when we were first sitting down, obviously we made it pretty clear that we felt we needed to improve at short, try to get an upgrade in center from a defensive standpoint, and also, if we could, add depth to that bench that could have a practical use," Mozeliak said. "We were able to do that.
"As we look back over the last six weeks, we feel like we were able to improve this club. A lot of times that's not easy to do when you've had the type of year that we've had. But we feel pretty good about moving forward."
Indeed, the Cardinals appear to have addressed their biggest areas of deficiency. They've upgraded defensively in center and at a pair of infield positions. Shortstop has become a position of offensive strength. The bench touts more experienced depth.
And in adding three right-handed bats, the Cardinals believe they are better protected against left-handed pitching. That should make their offense more balanced.
As for what remains ahead, the answer is probably not much.
"I think a lot of people are sort of wondering how the next four to six weeks look like. And I think that's a fair question," Mozeliak said. "One of the things we have prided ourselves in is just being opportunistic. If something comes up that should make sense, we'll pursue it. I think the free-agent market is just sort of starting to slow down or lack a lot of players at this moment. Therefore, it could change how the trade market looks in the month of January."
Mozeliak later added that the organization will continue to seek upgrades to their Minor League depth in the time leading up to Spring Training. The club also has arbitration cases left to settle with Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay and Bourjos.
Cards hire Bell to be assistant hitting coach
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' 2014 coaching staff is now complete after general manager John Mozeliak officially announced the hire of David Bell on Tuesday. Bell will work alongside former teammate John Mabry as the team's assistant hitting coach.
Bell interviewed for the position after Bengie Molina informed the Cardinals he would be leaving for Texas after one year on manager Mike Matheny's staff. Bell, 41, was looking to join a new organization after being dismissed as third-base coach when the Cubs decided to name a new manager and staff. Prior to his season in Chicago, Bell served as a Minor League manager in the Reds' organization for four seasons.
This will be a return to St. Louis for Bell, who was an infielder for the Cardinals from 1995-98.
"I think for all of us who have known him, he understands what Cardinal baseball is all about. So I think that's just a natural fit," Mozeliak said. "I always think of that job as one, you have to be a working bee, but also you have to have great appreciation for what the hitting coach is teaching. Hopefully, they can work well together and it can be a collaboration of ideas. But ultimately, you have to respect the philosophy, the stance of the hitting coach. I think in this case, they have a very good rapport, and I imagine it will be a very seamless transition."
Bell will be the fourth assistant hitting coach the Cardinals have had over the last four seasons. Mabry filled the position in 2012 before being promoted to the top job a year ago.
Bell and Mabry were teammates in St. Louis and again in Seattle in 1999. Bell's playing career spanned 12 season and six teams. He appeared in games at five different positions but was used primarily as a third baseman. He retired from playing in 2006.
The Cardinals previously announced that all other members of their 2013 coaching staff would be returning next season.
• Mozeliak avoided adding to the speculation of how Descalso and Kozma will be affected by the Cardinals' signing of Ellis when asked about the topic on Tuesday. Though Mozeliak said he could envision "a scenario where both make the club," it would seem likelier that one is left off. Putting Descalso and Kozma on the 25-man roster would mean that three of the five bench spots would be filled by infielders.
"I'm always reluctant to look at what the roster might look like at the end of March when we're sitting here in December because so many things can happen -- whether it's injures or trades," Mozeliak said. "From my standpoint, both guys still look like they have a chance to be on this team, and we'll see how things work out."
• The Cardinals still expect that outfielder Oscar Taveras (right ankle surgery) will be cleared to resume running in early January and will report to Spring Training without limitation. Asked if Taveras could crack the Major League roster out of camp, Mozeliak said: "How he ends up contributing, I think, will really depend on how he plays in spring."
• Pitcher Trevor Rosenthal, Mozeliak and broadcasters Dan McLaughlin, Rick Horton, and John Rooney all took an hour-long shift on Tuesday ringing bells and collecting money for the Salvation Army outside a St. Louis-area grocery store.
• Mozeliak reiterated that he plans to sit down with retired right-hander Chris Carpenter after the holidays to discuss a non-playing role for Carpenter within the organization.
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.