A month and a half ago, when their 2016 campaign ended, the Cardinals didn't expect to make a big bullpen move this offseason. They certainly didn't plan to be players in the market for closers like Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon.
But there was general manager John Mozeliak at Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon, presenting a four-year contract -- and a No. 21 Cardinals jersey -- to a reliever. The Cards officially announced the signing of left-hander Brett Cecil, turning the loss of lefty Zach Duke into an opportunity to add an experienced, versatile arm.
"If we were going to make a splash in the bullpen," Mozeliak said, "he was the one we identified."
The Cardinals did not disclose the financial terms of Cecil's deal, but he will reportedly receive $30.5 million with a full no-trade clause over the next four years. The Cards designated catcher Brayan Pena for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Cecil.
The lefty reliever was immediately intrigued by the Redbirds' interest and signed quickly. He spoke highly of the Cardinals' history and St. Louis' reputation as a baseball town.
"When all the teams were being mentioned and St. Louis came along, it was very exciting for me and my family to hear that they were interested," Cecil said. "I think we knew in our hearts this was the right fit for us."
Cecil, 30, was the perfect fit for the Cardinals following the news that Duke would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season. Their left-handed depth was further decimated by Tyler Lyons' knee injury and the Indians claiming Tim Cooney off waivers. So the Cards moved aggressively, knowing the market would expand for setup relievers such as Cecil as soon as the premier closers began to sign.
"We really felt like he would be the key person to help us in securing a very strong bullpen moving forward," Mozeliak said. "Sometimes with injuries, opportunities present themselves. That's exactly what we felt like with Brett. You look at what Mr. Cecil's been able to accomplish over the years and how he fits with us, it really works out well."
Cecil will join the back end of the Cards' bullpen along with Kevin Siegrist and closer Seung Hwan Oh, Mozeliak said, giving manager Mike Matheny a "more interchangeable" relief corps. Cecil seemed on board for such a role, describing his flexibility as "limitless." He demonstrated that throughout his eight years with the Blue Jays, pitching everywhere from the rotation to the ninth inning.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound lefty owns a 2.90 ERA in 205 innings over 243 appearances since becoming a full-time reliever in 2013. A free agent for the first time, Cecil was pleased with how rapidly things came together with the Cardinals.
"I didn't know when it was going to happen, how it was going to happen," Cecil said. "I do like to get these things over and done with as quickly as possible. That way I can get my focus to offseason preparation."
Now, after revealing what Mozeliak called "the worst-kept secret we've had in a while," the Cardinals can turn their attention toward their other offseason needs, specifically in the outfield. Having secured his top target, Mozeliak shot down the idea of the Cards making another surprise splash in the bullpen.
"I would think we're done," he said.
Adam Berry has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.