One of John Mozeliak’s blunders was the Brett Cecil signing. With one year left, Spring Training should be his last chance with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Way back in 2017, when the St. Louis Cardinals signed Brett Cecil to a four-year, $30.5M deal, I think the general consensus was that it was a good bit of money, but that Cecil was a good pitcher and would be able to do almost anything then-manager Mike Matheny asked him to do.
The Cardinals had a gaping hole in their bullpen from the left side and bringing in Cecil filled that. As with most signings though, there were red flags. Signing a 30-year-old reliever to a four-year deal in general carries risk as the player ages. That is normally not a huge barrier, but it is one. Another red flag was Cecil’s recent performance.
Cecil was dominant from 2013-2015 where he was, on average, 51% better than average with an ERA consistently under 3.00. In 2016 though, Cecil was only 9% above average with an ERA close to 4.00. Cecil then hit the free-agent market and signed this big deal with the Cardinals.
In the first year of the deal, the Cardinals got almost exactly what they expected from Cecil. With a 3.88 ERA, 3.26 FIP, and 109 ERA+, Cecil was pretty solid in his career-high 73 appearances.
That is when the good ended, possibly due to that workload.
As I’m sure you know, Cecil’s production fell off a cliff in 2018 when he had a 6.89 ERA and was 43% below average in just 40 appearances. He was injured on and off and wasn’t good when he was playing.
Coming into 2019, it was time to see whether that 2018 season was a fluke or not. It looked like it was set up to go well for Cecil as he came into Spring Training 35-40 pounds lighter. However, this weight change threw off his mechanics and he ended up hurting himself. He started the season on the IL and ended up getting carpal tunnel surgery in April which ended his season.
Cecil is now coming into the final year of that four-year deal, the Cardinals have paid Cecil $23.25M for one solid year and one injury-plagued awful year. Many have said that he should have been cut already, but we know how the Cardinals work. If Cecil is healthy, he will start the season with the team and if he can’t produce, then he’ll get cut. That’s what they did with all of their sunken costs (Jhonny Peralta, Johnathan Broxton) and they have no reason to do anything differently.
I would like to argue that the Cardinals need to make the decision earlier than when the season starts. They need to decide by the end of Spring Training.
The Cardinals have given Cecil ample opportunities to show he can be healthy and if he can’t get healthy by Spring, if he doesn’t have a good spring, I don’t think the Cardinals can afford to keep him around.
Signing Kwang-Hyun Kim puts more pressure on Cecil, as does Genesis Cabrera. The Cardinals have the pieces to have another dominant bullpen, and they are going to need it with how the NL Central looks to be shaping up this year. The Cardinals can’t afford to continue to carry dead weight on the roster and as we have seen in recent years, a game in April or May could be the one game difference that decides the division at the end of the year.
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If Cecil comes out and gives one solid last year and then goes on his way, great. History would say that probably won’t happen. I feel bad for Cecil as his weight loss should’ve helped, but hurt him instead. It’s a production-based game and those feelings have no place in baseball. Cecil needs to show his worth in Spring Training or he should be cut.