Brett Cecil has been a popular topic surrounding the Cardinals since he was signed to a four-year $30.5 million deal back in 2016. He has disappointed since coming over to St. Louis, despite pitching only slightly above his career averages, and now, he’s halting his Spring Training progress to re-work his mechanics.
The left side of the Cardinals bullpen was definitely a weak spot last season. Cecil was a big reason for that. Mozeliak went out and addressed the situation this offseason, adding left handed depth, and the Cards also have young help on the way. If Brett doesn’t get things rolling this spring, he could be left out of the Redbirds regular season plans.
Over the past two seasons with the Cardinals, Cecil has a 3-5 record, 4.86 ERA and 4.25 FIP. He was especially bad last year. In just 32.2 innings he posted a 6.28 FIP, issued 25 walks, only struck out 19 and allowed left handed hitters a .310/.379/.483 slash line.
Generally speaking, when a guy you are paying $7.6 million only throws 32.2 innings, it’s not a good situation. When he posts the numbers that Cecil did, it’s downright ugly.
The 2019 projections aren’t in Brett’s favor either. According to baseball reference, he is expected to throw 48 innings and post a 4.50 ERA.
On top of all this, Cecil has recently shut down his regular Spring Training activity. After playing catch, he noticed a soreness in his shoulder. Later, while practicing his throwing motion, he realized he had dropped his arm slot. Due to this, he has decided to focus on adjusting his mechanics, in hopes of relieving the pain he felt after throwing.
This comes after just one outing in Grapefruit league play where he pitched around one hit to throw a scoreless frame.
What should be more alarming to Cecil than his arm hurting is the other left handed pitchers the Cardinals have available in the bullpen.
Former Indian super-reliever Andrew Miller was the Cardinals big free agent acquisition this offseason. They were able to snag him, after a down year, with a two-year $25 million deal with a team option for the third season. One of the biggest reasons they went out and got the big lefty was the lack of performance from Brett Cecil.
Last year, despite having one of his worst seasons of the past decade, Miller was tough on left handed hitters. In 44 at bats, he held them to a .227/.306/.250 slash line and a tOPS+ of 55. The Cardinals are hoping he will come back at 100 percent, after being hurt last season, and put up even better numbers in 2019.
Alongside Miller out in the bullpen will likely be second year southpaw Austin Gomber. Gomber made his debut in 2018, splitting time between the pen and the rotation. His numbers were slightly worse in 18 relief appearances than in his 11 starts, but it’s unlikely he’ll start this season in the rotation.
Although he struggled a little bit overall, posting a 4.44 ERA, Gomber showed a lot of good signs and was pretty good against lefties. Overall, he held them to an OPS of .744 and a tOPS+ of 89. At the very least, he was more effective than Cecil and projects to be so again in 2019.
Of the three guys listed here, Chasen Shreve is by far the least impressive. However, the former Yankee was much better than Cecil last year, posting a 3.93 ERA over 52.2 innings. Also, even though his numbers against left handers weren’t good by any stretch, they were still better than Cecil’s.
He will likely be the better option this year too. Especially for a third left handed option. He’s projected to throw 56 innings and post a 4.02 ERA. That’s not really the kind of production the Cards would like to see out of one of their top two left handed options, but it might due for the third.
What It Means For Cecil
All of this collectively paints a very bad picture for Cecil. He’s currently working on mechanics just to stay healthy, which means he may not even be ready for the first game, and the Cardinals have three better options ready to go.
It’s possible the Cards will keep Cecil around just to have four left handed relievers on the roster. However, it’s just as conceivable that they will cut ties with him before the season starts.
Featured Image by David Phillip of the AP