Blue Jays could continue to feel Cecil’s impact on free agent market

Longtime Blue Jays’ reliever Brett Cecil signed a reported four-year, $30.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday

A rising tide lifts all boats. Especially the ones that row — err, throw — from the left side.

Brett Cecil is the first impactful Blue Jays’ staple to leave for richer pastures this off-season. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion may soon join their longtime teammate to new uniforms, but Cecil’s departure could continue to influence Toronto’s off-season.

With the news of Cecil’s deal — a reported four years and $30.5 million — there were some free agent relievers around baseball with smiles on their faces.

Granted, Cecil’s annual average salary of just over $7.5 million is not an overpay when the market’s appetite is considered. This puts him loosely in line with Ryan Madson‘s three-year, $22 million deal from last off-season with the Oakland Athletics, and while Madson was a right-hander coming off a very strong year, he hadn’t thrown an MLB pitch in the three seasons prior.

The dollars at play represent fair market value, but the fourth year represents positional demand.

Toronto had offered Cecil a three-year deal according to Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell, which is encouraging in that it shows the front office is willing to go multiple years for a strong 30-year-old reliever.

Looking at the left-handers behind Cecil in free agency, however, the two and three-year deals they will now be able to command could be more difficult to digest.

Travis Wood, Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, J.P. Howell, Marc Rzepczynski make up the next tier of left-handed relievers. In this group and beyond, teams must decide if they are getting a left-on-left specialist or a “full” reliever, like Cecil was often trusted to be. Multiple years at $3-$6 million for a complete reliever is sensible, but that number becomes more difficult as their scope of potential impact narrows.

The internal options of Aaron Loup, Chad Girodo, and Matt Dermody are likely to account for one of the lefty bullpen positions. Danny Barnes can handle left-handed bats well while Ryan Tepera actually opened 2016 as the “second lefty”.

Beyond that, Tim Mayza may be the closest minor-league option but has only pitched 15.1 innings at the double-A level. Top left-handed pitching prospects Angel Perdomo and Ryan Borucki (who was recently protected from the Rule 5 Draft) are still too far out for consideration.

With all of this considered, and the money going to lefties in free agency, it’s reasonable to say that young, controllable, left-handed relievers are one of baseball’s most valued commodities at this time.

Value like Loup’s early seasons as a left-on-left specialist is not a simple thing to come by, and given the current prices, the Blue Jays may be forced to rely on their brains instead of their wallets to find a left-handed diamond in the rough. Given their home runs with Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, and Joaquin Benoit in 2016, that’s not a daunting idea at all.

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