The Brewers have until the end of November to decide what to do with the 13 remaining players they have on the roster that are eligible for salary arbitration. They’ve already taken care of a couple of cases, picking up a team option for Jeremy Jeffress to avoid arbitration and outrighting Stephen Vogt off the roster.
For the remaining players, we’ll take a look at what they did during the 2018 season, what they’re expected to make in a hypothetical arbitration hearing, and whether the Brewers should tender them a contract or non-tender them. Today it’s the Lefty One Out Guy who occasionally struggled to get One Out.
LHP Xavier Cedeno
2018 Salary: $1.05 million
2019 Projection: $1.5 million
Cedeno seemed to finally recover from years of forearm and elbow worries to put together a solid year, first for the Chicago White Sox and then for the Brewers for the final month of the season after a deal that sent two low-level prospects to the Southside Nine on August 31st.
He gave the Brewers another lefty option out of the bullpen, especially down the stretch after high usage rates and some nagging injuries possibility contributed to Dan Jennings losing some of his effectiveness. Unlike Jennings, though, Craig Counsell deployed Cedeno largely as a strict LOOGY, with 10 of his 15 regular season appearances with Milwaukee lasting less than a full inning.
The Case for Tendering
For the most part, Cedeno did his job well overall during the course of the entire season. He held lefties to a .207/.281/.293 line in 64 plate appearances, but he was also fairly effective against righties, who had a .212/.316/.288 line against him in 76 plate appearances. If you aren’t crazy about the idea of paying a LOOGY $1.5 million, an argument could be made that he could potentially carry a load as a “normal” middle reliever -- at least better than Jennings, who allowed a line of .320/.399/.528 against right-handed hitters this year.
With that in mind, $1.5 million isn’t all that much to give to a quality middle reliever, and we saw this year how valuable those lower-level or non-Hader/Knebel/Jeffress relievers were on days that one or more of that triumvirate were unavailable. While Cedeno has had his ups and downs -- like just about any reliever -- he also has a track record of being a quality relief arm dating back to his days with the Tampa Bay Rays before the arm trouble took hold.
The Case for Non-Tendering
If the Brewers see Cedeno as strictly a LOOGY, it’s probably worth asking whether he’s good enough in that role to justify $1.5 million. Reliever performance can tend to be flukey — both on the good end and the bad end — and those results can fluctuate even more wildly when a guy is only facing one or two batters per game.
We saw that during the last part of his stint with the Brewers, both late in September and in the NLCS against the Dodgers. Cedeno recorded 3 outs in 4 appearances during that series, giving up 3 hits to left-handers, with 2 of those coming around to score runs. Before that, he allowed 6 baserunners in his final 7 outings of the regular season. There were a handful of flukey hits that snuck through in that stretch — the singles Max Muncy snuck through a shift in the NLCS come to mind — but at some point, if you keep a person on the roster for one reason, you’d like to see them finish the job.
What Should Happen?
The Brewers will have no shortage of arms competing for bullpen spots in the the spring, but the organization is a little short on non-Hader left-handed pitching. Position player-turned-reliever Nick Ramirez became a minor league free agent at the end of the year, Brent Suter will be recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t pitch in 2019, and Quintin Torres-Costa — who had a 1.31 ERA in 43 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A this year and could have pushed to make his debut in 2019 — also went down with an elbow injury.
Considering that, it seems possible the Brewers could decide to bring back Cedeno, if not just to provide some left-handed depth at the start of camp before seeing who becomes available just before Opening Day — similar to how they scooped up Dan Jennings before the start of the 2018 season.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference