MLB Hot Stove Signings: Cardinals sign Brett Cecil to four-year contract

In the latest sign the bullpen market has exploded, veteran southpaw Brett Cecil has signed four-year contract with the Cardinals. The deal will reportedly pay him $30.5 million. St. Louis announced the signing in a press release on Monday.

"Adding a proven late-game performer like Brett Cecil, who has consistently been among the game's top set-up relievers, gives us another solid option late in games," said GM John Mozeliak in a statement. "Having multiple bullpen options during the crucial latter portions of games is an area that we have placed significant importance on over the years, and to know that Brett is now going to be part of that mix is very exciting."

Cecil, 30, has spent the last eight seasons with the Blue Jays, the team that originally drafted him 38th overall in 2007 draft. He had a 3.93 ERA (110 ERA+) with 45 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings around a torn lat muscle in 2016. This was his first venture out into free agency.

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Brett Cecil as signed a free agent deal with the Cardinals. USATSI

Here are four things to know about the Cecil deal.

1. The Cardinals needed a true shutdown lefty.

Earlier this offseason St. Louis lost trade deadline pickup Zach Duke to Tommy John surgery, taking away one of their two bullpen lefties. Kevin Siegrist throws hard but isn't a good left-on-left matchup option because he lacks a consistent breaking ball.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of Cecil's and Siegrist's career numbers against left-handed hitters:

AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
K% BB% GB% HR/9
Cecil .233/.281/.344 69 24.5% 5.9% 48.3% 0.75
Siegrist .218/.340/.331 117 24.3% 14.6% 47.5% 0.77

A 59-point different in on-base percentage is astronomical. Cecil's curveball is a much better weapon against lefties than Siegrist's changeup. With big lefty hitters like Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto in the NL Central, a true shutdown southpaw is a necessity, and now the Cardinals have one.

2. Now the Blue Jays need a lefty reliever.

Toronto has four lefty relievers on their 40-man roster at the moment: Aaron Loup, Chad Girodo, Matt Dermody, and Ryan Borucki. Loup is the only one with more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues, and he fell so far our of favor this past season that the Blue Jays designated him for assignment.

Among the notable free agent left-handed relievers not named Aroldis Chapman are Jerry Blevins, Mike Dunn, J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Javier Lopez, and Travis Wood. Don't be surprised if the Blue Jays scoop up one of those guys to combat those big lefty bats in the AL East.

3. There is no draft pick involved.

The Blue Jays did not make Cecil the $17.2 million qualifying offer and therefore will not receive a draft pick for losing him in free agency. On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals will not have to surrender a draft pick. It's a straight free-agent signing. No draft pick machinations to worry about.

4. The bullpen market is insane.

Two offseasons ago Andrew Miller, arguably the best reliever in baseball, received a four-year deal worth $36 million. This offseason Cecil, a good but not great reliever, received a four-year deal worth $30.5 million. In two years there's been that much market inflation. There's talk the top free-agent relievers like Chapman and Kenley Jansen could get as much as $100 million this winter.

The trade market for bullpen help is outrageous right now as well. Ken Giles was traded for five players last winter. The Yankees turned Chapman and Miller into eight total players at the deadline, including the Arizona Fall League MVP and three top-100 prospects.

Want quality bullpen help? Prepare to pay big, regardless of whether you're signing a free agent or making a trade.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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