Blue Jays Debate: A Brett Cecil Extension

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Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil Extension: Financially

Jim Scott –

A famous financier once said that there were no good stock and bad stocks, only underpriced and overpriced ones. The issue with extending Cecil is not whether he is a good player, but whether his current price makes sense. So the question becomes: what would it take to extend Brett this offseason?

The timing is bad to extend Brett for several reasons. First, he is coming off a career year. A year that projection systems like Steamer do not expect him to repeat. So the Jays would be “buying high”. Second, the 2015 offseason has been something of a seller’s market for high-quality relievers, with more demand than supply.

Darren O’Day, another non-closer who had a higher xFIP and SIERA than Cecil in 2015, is reportedly looking for a four year deal for an aggregate $36 million. O’Day is reported to have left the GM Meetings in November with several offers already in hand. This may increase Brett’s expectations. And finally, with the recent trade of Liam Hendriks, the Jays might be negotiating from a position of weakness, as Brett might feel that the Jays need him more than he needs them.

Brett is expected to make $3.4 million in arbitration for 2016.  If he were to sign an extension today, he would most likely want the security of a 4-year deal, like O’Day (who is four years older than Cecil). Based on O’Day’s reported ask of 4/$36million, and on Cecil’s career 2015 and younger age, it is reasonable to expect that Cecil would be looking for $7-9 million per year for his three free agent years, for a contract something like  $4/7/8/9, or a total of 4/$28.

As good as Cecil is, this is a lot of money for a reliever who failed as a closer in 2015 and was not even pitching as the primary setup man. It is doubly troubling given the trend of declining production from relievers after age 29 and the fact that the Jays would be “buying high” on a career year – a year that projection systems such as Steamer do not expect him to repeat in 2016.

I could be wrong, though. If Brett were prepared to sign a contract that was both shorter and cheaper than the 4/$28m I project, it would be a different discussion. But I strongly suspect that the sellers market for top relievers in 2015 has put stars (or dollar signs?) in Brett’s eyes. Much better to discuss an extension closer to the end of 2016, when Brett’s production has come down to earth.

Mat Germain –

I’ll use O’Day’s expected numbers, as Jim pointed out, to make my argument for value in Cecil’s case. It’s believed to be around 4-year/$36 million, which averages out at $9 million per season if there’s no front or back loading. I still don’t believe it would cost that much to extend him, but I’ll use it since it would definitely be as close to his ceiling as you could get.

If the Jays were successful in getting Cecil to accept such a deal, he’d be making less than the following relievers (using their ’16 if a FA thereafter, ’17 salaries if not):

And the same as the following relievers:

The first thing I need to ask myself in this case is this: do I believe Brett Cecil is one of the 10 most dominant relievers in baseball? The answer is a clear and resounding, YES.

The reasons for this were mostly covered in the statistical portion and will be expanded on in the best and worst case scenario, and intangibles and indirects portions. But assume for a moment that the case is made and we all agree to it or can’t really dispute it effectively, can the Jays afford it?

The Jays currently have $40m committed to the 2017 season, half is for Troy Tulowitzki, and the other half is for Russell Martin. There are also 11 arbitration cases to be handled that year, 4 of which will be their first year in arbitration. There are 7 free agents including Cecil, with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jesse Chavez, Michael Saunders, R.A. Dickey, and Justin Smoak joining him. All said, there’s a lot to figure out for that season.

What all of those issues point to, however, is the fact that the Jays will have a ton of flexibility in decisions to be made. They can mitigate costs through trade, player promotions, and other cost cutting measures. However, if they want to have a dominant bullpen going forward, they also need to look at the cost of the pen as a whole. So if we look at the cost there, we see the following (assuming the composition is similar to what it is today):

My point is this. Not only can the Jays afford to extend Brett Cecil financially, but they need to afford him because the rest of the pen lacks the depth of experience that he has and can bring going forward. Of all the relievers the Jays have in-house today, he’s the veteran, the one who shuts things down when they get out of control. Without that financial investment, the Jays will likely need to bring someone from outside the organization in who doesn’t know any of these guys.

There’s no financial excuse to not sign Brett Cecil when you consider how he’s valued compared to the rest of the relievers in MLB and when you consider what they’re paying the remainder of the pen. No excuse.

Next: The Brett Cecil Extension: Best Case vs Worst Case