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Report: Cardinals sign LHP Brett Cecil to 4-year deal

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The Cardinals have reportedly signed left-handed reliever Brett Cecil to a four-year, $30.5 million deal, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The signing is pending a physical, and while the team has yet to officially announce anything, Passan explained that Cecil’s new contract could set the bar even higher for relief pitchers this offseason.

Passan added that the tipping point for Cecil was likely the Cardinals’ willingness to commit to four years, as other interested parties had proposed three-year deals that did not come to fruition.

Cecil, 30, completed his eighth and final year with the Blue Jays in 2016, logging a career-low 36 2/3 innings as he worked his way back from a torn lat muscle. During the regular season, he posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 45 strikeouts and returned in the postseason for six appearances as the Blue Jays battled through the Division and Championship Series. When healthy, his track record as a full-time reliever looked considerably more impressive: from 2013-2015, the left-hander put up a 2.67 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 11.5 K/9 rate over 168 1/3 innings in Toronto.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.