Brett Cecil, John Mozeliak (St. Louis Cardinals)

Four-year contract with reliever Brett Cecil was finalized on Monday by the St. Louis Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals have committed four years and $30.5 million to left-handed relief pitcher Brett Cecil and removed catcher Brayan Pena from the 40-man roster.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed free-agent left-handed reliever Brett Cecil to a four-year deal that extends through the 2020 season.  Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

http://www.scout.com/player/94934-brett-cecil?s=321

“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,” stated Cardinals Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak.   “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 been used exclusively as a reliever since 2013, ranking among American League relief leaders in strikeouts (261, 7th), strikeouts per nine innings pitched (11.46, 10th), games pitched (243, 8th) and Holds (53, T13th).

The 6-3, 235-pound Maryland native was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (38th player overall) in 2007 and debuted with the Jays in 2009.   He has pitched his entire Major League career with Toronto, compiling a 41-42 mark with a 4.20 ERA and 11 saves in 330 games (74 games started), striking out 585 in 656.0 innings pitched. 

Cecil, who was named an American League All-Star in 2013 ranks among the majors Top-10 active leaders in career strikeouts/9 innings (11.05) and strikeout to walk ratio (5.63) among left-handed relievers.   Since moving into the bullpen exclusively in 2013, he’s allowed just one earned run in 28.2 innings pitched (0.31 ERA) in September while striking out 48 and he is unscored upon in his eight career postseason appearances between 2015 and 2016.

Last season, Cecil appeared in 54 games (36.2 IP) and struck out 45 batters while walking eight and he worked six scoreless appearances during the Blue Jays run to the American League Championship Series last month.  Forty-five of his 54 appearances this past season came in the 7th and/or 8th innings and 192 of his 243 relief appearances since 2013 have been in either of those two innings.

Since 2013, Cecil has limited left-handed batters to a .218 batting average, while right-handers have hit just .221.   He’s limited the opposition to a .177 batting mark with runners in scoring position over the past four seasons.  Cecil had a record string of 38 consecutive appearances between 2015 and 2016 during which he allowed no earned runs.

Cecil will wear uniform no. 21 as a Cardinal.

The Cardinals also announced today that they have designated catcher Brayan Pena for assignment to make room for Cecil on the team’s 40-man Major League roster.

Brian Walton’s take

The Cecil announcement was expected. It has been widely reported that the left-hander will receive $30.5 million over the next four years and has been given full no-trade protection.

The Pena one was not, however. Just 12 months ago, the reserve catcher was signed to a two-year, $5 million deal and was expected to serve as Yadier Molina’s back up in both 2016 and 2017.

http://www.scout.com/player/69524-brayan-pena?s=321

It did not turn out that way. When Pena slipped on wet dugout steps during spring training last March and injured his knee, it set in place a series of replacements as Molina ended up playing in a career high number of games behind the plate. (Pena made just 14 plate appearances as a Cardinal.)

Among the in-season replacements were Eric Fryer, Michael McKenry and Alberto Rosario.

Pena should clear waivers and would most likely be released. The Cardinals would remain on the hook for his 2017 salary. There is also a chance he could be claimed, traded or even accept an outright assignment to Memphis.

The assumption by many is that rookie Carson Kelly will become Molina’s 2017 understudy, as the two are the only catchers remaining on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster. However, one should remember that Rosario, who spent two months with St. Louis last season and appeared in 20 games, has been re-signed to a minor league deal. The Cardinals could also sign another veteran catcher and allow Kelly to play every day at Triple-A Memphis unless/until Molina is injured and needs replacing.

In other news

http://www.scout.com/player/142180-michael-ohlman?s=321

Another former 40-man roster catcher, Michael Ohlman, who left as a minor league free agent, has signed with Toronto. His 2016 Memphis teammate David Washington has also agreed to terms on a minor league deal for 2017, with Baltimore.

http://www.scout.com/player/133110-david-washington?s=321

For more

Keep on top of all free agents and transactions across the entire Cardinals system by position and level via the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

 

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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