Cecil gives the Cardinals a much-needed primary left-handed option in their bullpen for the coming season. Southpaw Zach Duke, who was acquired at this year’s trade deadline, was supposed to fill that role but will instead miss the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery; another left-hander, Tyler Lyons, had offseason knee surgery and may not be ready for the start of the year.
A former first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, Cecil has spent his entire eight-year career north of the border and became a very important relief weapon for the team over the last several years, appearing in at least 60 contests each season from 2013-15.
The 30-year-old posted a 3.93 ERA in only 36 2/3 innings during an injury-plagued 2016, but was nearly unhittable after returning to full health for the stretch drive. Opponents hit just .175/.224/.317 off Cecil over the final two months of 2016, and he struck out 26 batters to just three walks in that span. He didn’t allow a run in 3 2/3 postseason innings.
Named an American League All-Star in 2013, Cecil’s best season came in 2015 when he emerged as Toronto’s main set-up man with a career-low 2.48 ERA and 0.957 WHIP in 54 1/3 innings. His career year was cut short, however, after he sustained a torn calf muscle in the postseason.
Toronto had been hoping to keep its longtime bullpen stalwart, and reportedly made Cecil a three-year contract offer earlier this week. That apparently wasn’t enough to keep him, though, as Passan reported the Cardinals were the only interested team willing to give him a fourth year.