GM John Mozeliak spoke with the press about the team’s decision to sign southpaw Brett Cecil to a four-year deal, as the Associated Press reports (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). That article also provides a breakdown of the contract, which provides Cecil a $1MM signing bonus along with three years of $7.5MM salaries and a $7MM payout for the 2020 campaign.
- Cecil’s contract was a fair bit larger than most were expecting, but Mozeliak explained that the market dictated the deal. “Brett was the one person we thought if we were going to make a splash in the bullpen, he was the one we identified,” the veteran executive said. “There was a lot of demand for him and it was moving.” As ever, the presence of multiple bidders is a recipe for success in free agency.
- Clearly, there was plenty of interest, and more than one team that believed the 30-year-old was in an upper tier of relief pitchers. As Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs explains, the $30.5MM guarantee really shouldn’t be seen as much of a surprise. (Mea culpa: we at MLBTR predicted a three-year, $18MM deal.) Cecil has been rather dominant when healthy, with the peripherals to match. And he is not only reasonably youthful, but has the kind of arsenal that gives reason to think he can keep it up. Sullivan argues that the pact fits comfortably in with precedential contracts such as Darren O’Day’s four-year, $31MM payday last winter.
- One of the major reasons that Cecil’s contract rated as a surprise is the fact that he registered only a 3.93 ERA and managed just 36 2/3 innings in his platform season. St. Louis (and others) were willing to look past that, and Cecil suggested in his comments that he was already rounding back into form late in the year (as his strong late-season performance suggests). His torn lat muscle plagued him in the middle of 2016, as he balanced the need for healing with the urge to get back to the mound. “We tried to rest, tried to let it heal. It wasn’t working,” Cecil explained. “I was sidelined for six weeks. I almost had to start spring training over again in the middle of the season. It took me a little bit to get going, and there in August and toward the end of the season and in the playoffs, I was beginning to feel like my old self again.”
- Shoring up the bullpen was a major need for the Cards, especially once Zach Duke was lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery. But perhaps the single greatest opening for the organization is in the outfield, with the team giving indications that it prefers to add a center fielder — preferably, one with defensive chops. Still, there’s also a need to replace some of the pop that the club has lost with Brandon Moss and Matt Holliday heading to free agency, Mark Saxon of ESPN.com notes. He suggests that Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna is a “name to keep an eye on” for the Cardinals. Ozuna has rated well with the glove in the past, though his metrics dipped last year, but he also brings a power bat. (In 2016, Ozuna hit 23 home runs for the second time in his career while posting a personal-best .187 isolated slugging mark.) Of course, he’s also going to cost quite a bit in trade value since he’s only projected to earn $4.5MM in his first of three seasons of arbitration eligibility. That being said, the Cardinals look to be a strong possible match with the Marlins, at least on paper, given their relative abundance of MLB-level starting pitching — a major focus of Miami’s offseason.
- After designating catcher Brayan Pena for assignment today, the Cardinals seem like a possible suitor for a backup catcher to spell Yadier Molina. As their updated depth chart shows, the club’s top in-house options (assuming Pena takes free agency) are youngsters Carson Kelly and Jesse Jenner along with journeyman Alberto Rosario. It may be the right time for the organization to give Kelly an extended look, as Molina is only controlled through 2018 (via club option) and is already 34 years of age — though the lauded veteran proved again in 2016 that he’s still capable not only of carrying the bulk of the load, but playing at a high level. At the very least, though, it seems reasonable to expect St. Louis to make a depth addition. While the free agent crop of catchers may not quite be up to the demand for everyday pieces, it does have quite a few experienced backstops who’d make for solid reserve options.