After agreeing to a 2016 for Brett Cecil, the Blue Jays need to think about signing him long term to avoid the high cost of relievers in free agency.
On Friday, Brett Cecil came to an agreement with the Blue Jays on his salary for the 2016 season. He will earn $3.8M, which is above the estimated amount from MLBTR, but well below market value. And, it is that market that will dictate what he earns when the 2016 season ends. He will be a free agent and his representatives at ACES will be looking to this offseason as a gauge for what their client should be seeking.
Already this offseason, we’ve seen the high cost of relievers drop our jaws and pop our eyes. John Axford got 2yrs/$10M from the Athletics, Steve Cishek got the same from the Mariners, Mark Lowe got 2yrs/$11M from the Tigers, Ryan Madson signed for 3yrs/$22M with the Athletics and everyone’s favorite, Darren O’Day brought in 4yrs/$31M. I suppose we can thank the Kansas City Royals and their “model” for the upswing in value placed on relievers. It is this high cost of bullpen pieces and Cecil’s value that should combine to push the Blue Jays to seek a contract extension.
If you compare Cecil’s 2015 performance to the above list, you see a guy who is underpaid. Using ESPN’s sortable pitching stats, we can get a comparison for Cecil. In 2015, he ranked 13th among MLB relievers in K/9 with 11.6, which is one spot above O’Day and he did it in 240 fewer pitches. Of course, Cecil did face 43 fewer batters. Cecil’s ERA (2.48) was 30th among MLB relievers. Lowe’s 1.96 mark was good for 14th. Madson ranked 20th at 2.13 while O’Day was 4th at 1.52. If you look at DIPS (Defense-Independent ERA), Cecil ranked 10th at 2.25, which is better than any of the above names. When you look at opponent’s batting average, Cecil was 23rd in MLB at .197. Nobody on this list was better. He also held batters to an OBP of .254. Again, that is a better mark than anyone on this list.
Obviously, the Blue Jays are not going to make a long term financial commitment based on one year. Instead, they have the advantage of knowing the player having drafted him in 2007. Since then, he’s moved from promising starter to top shelf reliever. In each of the last 3 seasons, he’s had a K rate of 28%, 32.5% and 32.7%. Aside from 2014 (11.5%), he’s never seen a BB rate of 10% in the big leagues, even when he started. Last season, he brought it down to 6.1%.
Cecil was also equally stingy against righties (.197 avg) as he was against lefties (.195 avg). But even when righties did make contact, they suffered through a .256 BABIP. As well, he is coming off a second half of 2015 where he did not allow an earned run since June.
Cecil has established himself as a top reliever. And, with free agency coming at the end of the 2016 season, when he will be 30 years old, he is primed for a big payday. With Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna seen as likely future starters and Drew Storen heading into free agency himself, now might be the time for the Blue Jays to ensure they have something of a sure bet in the bullpen moving forward.
Of course, it is not just as easy as “sign him to an extension” for the club. Cecil will have a lot of say in the matter. The allure of cashing in on the new found bullpen love in baseball could well be powerful for Cecil. But, the Blue Jays need to make a serious effort to keep him. An offer of 3yrs/$15M would be a reasonable starting point. (If Axford can get $5M AAV…) This offers a raise from his 2015 salary and the long term security that he’ll likely be after. The flip side of that is the volatility that comes with signing relievers to multi year deals.
2017 is a season away. A lot can happen between now and then. But, if there is one thing we know is that Brett Cecil has developed an impressive resume heading into his walk year. While it can be a gamble to sign relievers long term, Cecil offers a pretty safe bet. A 3yr deal gets him when he is effective and helps solidify a bullpen that may look rather empty beyond 2016. Extending him now would help the club avoid having to dip into a potentially expensive market next winter. There is no rush, but there is certainly a need. Brett Cecil is going to get paid. I’d just rather it be by the Blue Jays.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.