After struggling through most of the first half of the season, Brett Cecil settled into the dominant reliever the Blue Jays’ have known and made a big contribution down the stretch
The 2016 season wasn’t Brett Cecil’s best in a Blue Jay uniform, but that doesn’t mean he failed to provide value to the bullpen. He started the year slowly as he often does and battled injuries, but eventually turned things around on the mound.
In reality, it was a tale of two seasons for the veteran lefty. He struggled through 13 appearances in April, was injured and only threw 2.0 innings between May and June, and then continued to falter in July. When the calendar turned to August, Cecil was fully healthy and finally started to dominate in the late innings.
As mentioned above, Cecil really turned things around once the calendar flipped to August. He had a 3.12 ERA through 13 appearances that month, before becoming nearly untouchable in September. Through 12 appearances he gave up just 4 hits over 8.1 innings, and held opponents to a .138 batting average.
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The key to his turnaround was the use of his devastating curveball, which he leaned on heavily for success. In 2016, Cecil threw his curveball for an average speed of 84.37 MPH, compared to the league average of 78.06. While the curve isn’t a pitch you typically want at high speeds, Cecil’s bender does not suffer from the added velocity.
When he is on his game, as he was from August on, the former All-Star is one of the premier left-handed relievers in baseball. He continued his dominance in the postseason as well, allowing just two walks and no hits through 3.2 innings.
The Maryland native has frequently struggled out the gate of a new season, and 2016 was no exception. Prior to the All-Star break, Cecil had a 5.14 ERA in 21 appearances with opponents hitting .339 against him. He struggled to use his greatest weapon, his curveball, leaving opposing batters to sit on his fastball and changeup.
He was also sustained a left triceps strain and was sent to the DL on May 15th. He eventually returned more than a month later, throwing just 2.0 total innings combined in May and June. He continued to struggle through July with a 6.75 ERA for the month before finding his groove and performing well in the pennant race.
Cecil is a free agent, and should be highly coveted on this year’s market. Although there are several quality relievers on the market including Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon and more, there aren’t a lot of “set-up” types, and even fewer lefties.
The 30-year-old will likely receive several offers, and it’s already been reported that the Jays are interested in retaining his services. Considering Aaron Loup and Matt Dermody are at the top of the left-handed bullpen list, it will be crucial for the Jays to either retain, or replace Cecil’s production.
He’s been with the Blue Jays organization his entire eight-year career, and GM Ross Atkins has expressed serious interest in bringing him back. With reports of a 3 year offer, Cecil may be the most likely returning free agent, though a lot can change before spring training.