Pittsburgh Pirates free agent target profile: Xavier Cedeno

As the hot stove heats up, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves linked to a left-handed bullpen arm.

As the Tribune Review’s Rob Biertempfel reported yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be in on left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno.

Cedeno missed most of 2017 due to forearm injuries. He did not need surgery, but was nevertheless limited to just three innings last season. It is clear why the Tampa Bay Rays felt that he was a non-tender candidate…there are simply too many question marks surrounding him for a team in the Rays who have a stated mission to slash payroll.

Even though there is some risks in bringing Cedeno in, the Pirates could certainly do worse.

Profile and Performance

Cedeno is a six-year veteran left-hander. He was drafted in the 31st round of the 2004 draft, which proves that there will always be a place for left-hand bullpen arms.

He has refined his offerings to the point where he throws a cutter and curveball almost exclusively. In his last full season in 2016, Cedeno threw his cut fastball 75.07 percent of the time, with his curve taking up the remaining 24.93 percent. Prior to that year he had thrown the occasional four-seam and sinking fastballs to go along with an even more occasional changeup. Cedeno tossed those pitches to the side, and it’s hard to fault him for it. In 2016, Cedeno posted strong strikeout and walk rates along with a solid 2.64 FIP.

Cedeno excels on keeping the ball in the park, with a career HR/9 rate of 0.95. Though he has something of a reputation of a lefty-specialist, he has faced left and right handed batters at a near equal pace for his career. With that being said, right handers do hit him better, by a pretty sizable degree:

That is a hell of a split, but Cedeno clearly had enough of the Rays’ trust in him against righties to leave him in there against them at times. In the end, it comes down to a matter of right-handers simply hitting Cedeno harder. Over his career, right-handed bats have a hard-hit rate of 30.8 percent against him, opposed to just 24.4 percent for left-handers.

Career-to-date snapshot

table courtesy of Baseball Reference

The case for Cedeno

  • Put simply, the Pittsburgh Pirates need another left-hander in the bullpen. With George Kontos seemingly on the inside track to a bullpen spot, the club is riddle with right handed pre-ninth inning relief. Dovydas Neverauskas, A.J. Schugel and Edgar Santana can all make cases for breaking Spring Training with the big-league club, leaving only Steven Brault and Jack Leathersich as reasonable left-handed bullpen options. The jury is still out on the best way to utilize Brault and Leathersich may not yet have the team’s full trust.
  • With some concerns about his health, Cedeno might come cheaply. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates might break their own tradition and sign him to longer-term deal to lock in those savings.
  • Cedeno relies on his cut-fastball. If he were to join the current Pittsburgh Priates bullpen, he would join Kontos as the lone relievers to offer a cutter. We have seen the team bring in low-cost, high-strikeout potential arms recently, but many of them rely on a four-seam fastball. Adding a hard-breaker might give the Pirates an effective “change of pace” arm to throw out at a key moment in a series.

The case against Cedeno

  • Is Cedeno a left-handed specialist though? The answer is likely yes. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will play matchups in the bullpen from time to time, but would prefer to stay away from the practice whenever possible. Just because the Rays chose to leave him in against right-handers does not necessarily mean another team would feel comfortable doing so.
  • We’ve talked repeatedly here about the concerns regarding Cedeno’s forearm. Though he avoided surgery, his 2017 injury was serious enough to limit him to just three innings. He is fully healthy by all accounts, but the concern might linger.

What it might take

Before he was non-tendered, Cedeno was projected by MLBTR’s Mat Swartz to make $1.4 million in arbitration. Using that as a guide, it’s easy to see the Pittsburgh Pirates being able to lock down his services for a year at just about the same money, or perhaps a multi-year deal in the 2-year/$4 million range.

Conclusions

The need for another left-handed reliever in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen is a real one. There might be some other left-handed options on the market, but if the club is looking for a lower-cost option, Cedeno is a fantastic fit.

Photo credit РBryan Green РFlickr Creative Commons 

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years.

Jason’s previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA)

When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)

  • leadoff

    Why gamble if you don’t have to! They had Lopez and what did they do with him? Moved him to a team that knew how to use him. I do not believe Hurdle is the right guy to manage a player like this.

    • Bobby Ewing

      i concur