When the Blue Jays lost out re-signing Brett Cecil, I was at first disappointed. But after hearing how much money he received from the Cardinals, my disappointment quickly turned into a sense of relief. Relieved that the Blue Jays knew better than to commit so much of their payroll to a reliever who would only ever give them 60 innings a year and comes in to face maybe one or two batters every second or third game. The craziest thing about the Cecil contract, other than the absurd amount of money committed to this kind of player, is that there were so many other free agent relievers available who are every bit as good as Cecil, and who oddly enough were offered a fraction of what Cecil ended up signing for. Thankfully for Toronto, two of those free agent relievers are now with the Blue Jays, J.P. Howell and Joe Smith.
I said it the other day when I wrote a piece on the signing of Howell by the Blue Jays. Even taking into consideration the off year Howell had in 2016, if given the choice between Howell and Cecil, I’d take Howell. So why is it that a player like Cecil received a four year contract worth $30,500,000, while relievers who are just as good, like Howell (and there are many others) are forced to settle for a fraction of what Cecil received?
Well for starters, St.Louis obviously overpaid for a player they desperately felt they needed to overcome the Chicago Cubs. The biggest reason however why there is such a large discrepancy between the haves and have nots when it comes to relievers is that these top level guys, players like Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon are so rare, that many teams will pay almost anything to acquire them. While the next tier of relievers are forced to settle for so much less. For what it’s worth, I’m glad Toronto didn’t go out and blow their budget on a reliever like Chapman, Jansen, Melancon, or Cecil…because I’m more than happy with what a player like Howell or Smith brings to the table, especially when taking into consideration just how reasonable their price tag is compared to the top level relievers.
With all the success teams like the Royals, Cubs, and Indians have experienced of late, the baseball community is suddenly all gung-ho on the importance of having a world class bullpen. What that means is that teams are now willing to pay outrageously high prices if it means acquiring one of the best relievers in the game. And if you’re a team like the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, or Cardinals who are comfortable committing that kind of money to a reliever, good on you, but as a Blue Jays fan, I’m more than happy with the $6,000,000 that Toronto spent in acquiring both Howell and Smith.