Just like that, the longest serving member of the Toronto Blue Jays is gone. At the end of the playoffs, it seemed certain that Cecil was moving on from Toronto after his wife posted a heartfelt thank you on Instagram about the family’s time with the team. But judging by the Jays’ lack of relief depth, especially in terms of left-handed options, and the fact Ross Atkins said the team would be interested in having Cecil back, he ultimately cashed in on a massive payday to join the St. Louis Cardinals.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 19, 2016
With the departure of Cecil, the Jays are now left with a much thinner looking bullpen than they had when the 2016 season came to an end. Now Aaron Loup becomes their top left-handed option, followed by unproven names like Matt Dermody and Chad Girodo. I think it’s fair to assume at this point the Jays had Brett Cecil as one of their free agent options to fill that lefty bullpen void, but ultimately didn’t want to fork over that amount of cash.
If you’re surprised Cecil commanded this much money and term over free agency, take a look at the other names on the market and you’ll immediately understand why. After Cecil, the other non-closer, (not Aroldis Chapman), lefty reliever options out there are pretty sparse, with names like Boone Logan and Mark Rzepczynski filling out the better part of the list. Also, the $7.625 million average annual salary this equates to puts Cecil in a category with names like Huston Street, Darren O’Day, and Ryan Madson, which, again, considering the market, makes sense.
For three years, between 2013 and 2015, Cecil was excellent. He was one of few bright spots on a 2013 team that was very bad, earning an All-Star nod, he was just as good in 2014, and in 2015, after getting off to a rough start, he played a major role in helping the Jays to their first American league East title since 1993 with a scoreless inning streak that spanned from the end of June all the way to the end of the season.
Among those appearances throughout that dominant stretch was the most important one of his career, which featured three straight strikeouts against the Yankees in the midst of that September playoff chase:
— Richard Lee-Sam (@RLeesam) December 29, 2015
Last season was difficult for Cecil. He had a rough start to the season, went on the disabled list for a month between May and June with left arm shittiness, and came back performing inconsistently. He ended up finding his footing at the very end of the season, but the times in which John Gibbons trusted him in key, high leverage situations down the stretch were few and far between.
Cecil finished 2016 with a 1-7 record and a 3.93 ERA over 36.2 innings, easily the worst boxcar results he had since breaking on to the scene as an elite reliever back in 2013. But when you look at his peripherals, which you really should when examining relief pitchers, he was significantly better than his results indicated. He struck out 11 batters and walked only two per nine innings, which is right on par with what he was doing during his three good seasons.
So while many fans will say things like “there’s no way Brett Cecil is worth that money!” fans who’ve watched him be a low-key, under the radar dominant reliever can attest otherwise. His final season in Toronto wasn’t as good as his three incredible years, but when looking at those peripherals and the relief pitching market everyone has to work with, the St. Louis Cardinals made a smart move here.
Also, random note: with Cecil gone, I’m fairly certain the longest serving Blue Jay (assuming Edwin and Jose are gone too) now becomes Ryan Goins, who was drafted in 2009 and debuted with the team in 2013.