In his press conference Tuesday, Theo Epstein mentioned that the Cubs front office was staying involved in the free agent market and specifically referenced the possibility of picking up another reliever.
Well, we didn’t have to wait long to find out what Theo meant by that because on Wednesday they signed Xavier Cedeño to a one-year, $900,000 non-guaranteed contract. So I took some time to do a deep dive on Cedeño’s pitches and stats to see what he brings to the Cubs bullpen.
Cedeño has bounced between the majors and AAA since making his debut with the Houston Astros in 2011. He’s had flashes of brilliance, including a 2018 that saw him pitch 33⅓ innings between the White Sox and the Brewers with a 2.43 ERA and a 2.95 FIP. In 2018 he was also good for an above average 9.18 K/9 and a slightly below average BB/9 of 4.32.
He’s bounced around a lot, but has had moments of brilliance. Specifically his 2015 and 2018 seasons where he sported ERAs under 2.50. He’s also had seasons that were a lot uglier than that. It all averages out to a 3.69 ERA and a 3.60 FIP with a K/9 of 8.91 and a BB/9 of 3.54 over 175⅔ career innings pitched.
I deliberately used total innings above rather than seasons because he hasn’t been the most durable guy at the major league level. His highest innings pitched total came in 2015 when he threw 46 innings. In 2014 he only threw seven innings for the Nationals and in 2017 he only threw three innings for the Rays. He’s been DFA’d, injured, bounced back, and traded for cash considerations a lot, but if he has 40+ innings of what he showed with the White Sox and the Brewers in 2018, the Cubs got a great bargain.
One note of caution, Cedeño’s postseason experience is limited to one inning over four games in last year’s National League Championship Series against the Dodgers. To say this did not go well for Cedeño would be an understatement. Honestly it brought back memories of the early days of BCB when Ronny Cedeño was on the Cubs and we used to call him Cedeño or Oñedec depending on whether he was good or bad that day:
Cedeño is not a power pitcher. He hasn’t thrown his fourseam fastball since August of 2015, and when he did use it more frequently it topped out around 90 miles per hour. He currently relies on a cutter about 70 percent of the time, and he’s been most effective when he’s limited his use of that pitch and mixed it with a curve ball while rarely adding in a change up. You can see this in the usage graph and chart below:
Cedeño’s velocity is down over the last few years, but it doesn’t concern me in terms of his effectiveness. As you can see above his effectiveness seems more tied to his pitch makeup than his velocity.
Cedeño gives Joe Maddon a cheap, solid, LOOGY option who has the potential to be worth a lot more. He also gives BCB a chance to throwback to the “Oñedec” days and you know I love a good throwback.
In all seriousness, this is a savvy move for a team that needed to bolster their left-handed depth in the bullpen. If good Cedeño shows up it does raise the question of who will make it through camp since the Cub’s 40-man roster is currently full.