Blue Jays Extension Candidate: Brett Cecil


A the Toronto Blue Jays enter into that time of the year when they start assessing their arbitration cases with eligible players, it is also that time of year when they start to consider whether it becomes more worthwhile to extend players and lock them up long term. Brett Cecil is one such player as he enters his second year of arbitration eligibility at the age of 28.

It was almost a year ago (January 16, 2014 t be exact) when the Blue Jays came to an agreement on a one-year deal with reliever Brett Cecil that avoided arbitration with the lefty during his first year of eligibility. After a break-through campaign that netted Cecil an All-Star Game nod on the backs of a 5-1 record, a 2.82 ERA,  2.99 xFIP, and a 10.38 K/9 ratio, Cecil turned that into a $1.3 million contract for 2014.

At the time, there was debate whether or not the Blue Jays should buy out some of those arbitration year, but Toronto wisely chose to stay the course for another season. With relievers such a volatile breed of baseball player, the thought was obviously that the team wanted to see Cecil repeat his efforts for a second season. He didn’t just repeat it, but also improved on it, posting a 2-3 record with 5 saves, a 2.70 ERA, a 2.51 xFIP, and a outstanding 12.83 K/9 ratio.

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Now in his second go-round the arbitration game, Cecil will undoubtedly see another solid increase in salary. In fact, MLB Trade Rumors has pegged the lefty as possibly doubling his salary from last season and agreeing to a $2.6 million deal this time around. While that’s still a reasonable mark and given his role in set-up, could still be affordable if he again faces his third and final year of eligibility again next winter, it still may be prudent for the Blue Jays to possibly give him a long-term deal.

Why you ask?

Cecil’s current curve on the arbitration scale is that of a set-up reliever. If, as it currently appears, Brett Cecil enters the season as the team’s closer and excels in that role in the same way he has as a set-up reliever, that number could jump in his final year of arbitration.

A good case to base this off of would be Glen Perkins of the Minnesota Twins.

After struggling for a few years as both a starter and a reliever, Perkins finally broke out in 2011, posting a 2.48 ERA, a 2.41 FIP, and a 9.5 K/9 ration for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins liked what they saw and bought out his arbitration years with a three-year, $10.3 million extension, and built in a fourth year option for another $4.5 million.

Perkins became the team’s closer midway through 2012, saving 16 games that season, and then 36 and 34 in 2013 and 2014 respectively, both of which were All-Star campaigns. Prior to the 2014 season the Twins inked Perkins to another 4-year extension, this time for $22.18 million and an option for 2018 worth $6.5 million.

Perkins two big seasons that drove the initial extension were the 2011 and 2012 season, which he had primarily as a set-up man at the age of 28 and 29. Cecil, just entering his age 28 season, is two years ahead of that curve and has put up better statistics (minus the 16 saves Perkins accumulated late in 2012) over the course of their two comparable seasons.

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That said, it’s doubtful that the Blue Jays will be able to get Cecil to agree to a similar three-year, $10.3 million deal. However the four-year, $22 million extension could be reasonable, both to the club and Brett Cecil, especially if he becomes the full-time closer for the team during that duration. Given the cost of closers on today’s market, that’s just money well spent.

Of course, the question comes is if the Blue Jays broach that subject before or after this season. Doing it before the season could mean a bit of an overpay on Cecil, and will also impact their available funds to add other relievers to the bullpen or upgrade at second base. However, waiting to do it after the season, and possibly after giving him the reins as the closer, and the deal could cost significantly more, if Cecil’s even willing to consider it at that point, just one year away from free agency.

At the end of the day, extending Cecil now makes sense. He’s earned the chance to close and he’s earned the right for the team to commit to him long-term.