After off the field issues threw St. Louis Cardinals’ reliever Brett Cecil off in 2019, there are signs that 2019 has much more potential.
Way back in the 2017 offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals signed a solidified left handed reliever that they thought would pay out over his age 30 to 34 seasons. So far, Brett Cecil has not even even been close to worth what the team is paying for him. The contract was for four years and $30.5M and at the time seemed like a very fair deal.
Cecil was coming from Toronto, a hitters park, where he played his first eight years of his career pitching for a combined 4.20 ERA sitting at a 1.340 WHIP and a respectable 100 ERA+. After starting his career as a starter, he became a very good option his final four years north of the border once he was converted to the bullpen completely. Cecil was known as a one inning pitcher who did a good job getting lefties out.
When he came to St. Louis, he was pretty solid his first year, but nothing too special with a 109 ERA+ and 3.88 ERA. Last year though, Cecil fell off a cliff.
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Injured for parts of the year, Cecil threw for a 6.89 ERA and 57 ERA+ over just 40 appearances last year. This offseason, I kept waiting for Cecil’s name to be the one that was cut whenever the Cardinals signed a new player.
For a bullpen that now has Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve, Austin Gomber as well as Cecil, I always wished that he would be the odd one out. The contract thus far has been a disaster, and the appeal of a young Austin Gomber has made me want Cecil out. I am sure I wasn’t alone.
But, as is the case most of the time, all the information about what was happening behind the scenes was not publicly known. In a great article at the St. Louis Post Dispatch recently, Rick Hummel talked with Cecil about last season. You can read it here. The basic point of the article is that there was a lot of outside stress on Cecil that took his focus away from the game and his own personal health.
In the article, Cecil showed a lot of humility and self awareness. He said, “I would think about what everybody must be thinking — that ‘we spent all this money on this guy and he stinks.’” The ability to stand up and realize what your own public image is is a huge thing for progress. The first step in improving is recognizing there is a problem.
The second thing that gives me hope for Cecil piggy backs the first point and comes from a tweet from Charlie Marlow.
Part of what Cecil noted as a result of last years’ off the field stress was gaining weight up to about 250 pounds. Now under 210 pounds, Cecil looks noticeably different in the photos I have seen from Jupiter this Spring. In my junior year of high school, I went through a similar changed and lost 50 pounds myself. Let me be the first to say that a change of anything near that weight completely changes your physique and how you feel when you are playing sports.
This weight change is a great sign for Cecil. He knew he had a problem, admitted it to himself then went out there and fixed it. I have been on the ‘cut Cecil’ train for a long time and I can safely say that I am stepping off. Even if you don’t like him as a pitcher, you have to respect he hell out of him for dealing with the stress detailed in the Post Dispatch article and still performing at all.
All I ask of you fans is to give Cecil a clean slate like I am. The humility and discipline to change that he has shown this offseason is the best sign of a coming improvement that there could be. This analysis is not in any of his numbers from last year, but in personal experience of what getting your body and mind under control can bring about.
Cecil is still just 32, he is still owed a $15M contract from the St. Louis Cardinals, so similarly to Dexter Fowler, we as fans might as well give him another shot. He is going to have to prove he is worthy of a roster spot in Spring Training to make the team, but I believe without a doubt that he will with these changes he has made. Don’t count him out in 2019.
If Cecil can rebound anywhere close to his 2013-2015 numbers in Toronto, he can be a very important piece in the bullpen like what the Cardinals thought they were going to have when they signed him. If he doesn’t bounce back and continues last year’s performance, I guess eating $15M won’t kill the club either.