Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli could become a free agent following the 2016 season, and there are already rumors regarding his contract status.
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Cervelli Would Reportedly Consider Skipping Free Agency for Pittsburgh Extension
Wednesday, Jan. 27
According to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cervelli “is waiting for the club to begin dialogue regarding a contract extension” and would be open to remaining with the team.
The Pirates and Cervelli already avoided arbitration this offseason with a one-year deal, and he is set to make $3.5 million in 2016, per Spotrac. Sawchik added more context to the situation:
Even though Cervelli is only nine months away from free agency and is expected to rival Baltimore's Matt Wieters as the top catcher available next winter, Cervelli would consider foregoing the open market if the Pirates offered a three-year extension offer worth roughly $13 million per season, according to a source.
The Pirates acquired Cervelli via trade from the New York Yankees in exchange for relief pitcher Justin Wilson before the 2015 campaign. It didn’t draw many headlines at the time because Cervelli was largely a backup catcher, but he turned in a career season for the Pirates and helped replace Russell Martin, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays during the offseason.
Cervelli hit .295 with career highs in home runs (seven) and RBI (43). He also played 130 games, which was a dramatic increase over his previous career high of 93 in 2010. He was perhaps most valuable behind the plate and actually led all major league catchers in runs saved above average with his pitch framing, per StatCorner.com.
It was a far cry from the catcher who only appeared in 69 total games during the prior three seasons for the Yankees because of various injuries.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington commented on any potential contract negotiations, per Sawchik:
We do not discuss negotiations — potential or active — publicly. We like Cervelli a lot and would welcome the chance to have him remain a Pirate in the event we are able to find a contract that makes sense for both the player and club.
We are also fortunate to have two quality catching prospects that are near major league ready in case we are not able to reach common financial ground.
Those prospects—Reese McGuire and Elias Diaz—add another layer to any possible Cervelli extension. According to MLB.com, McGuire was the No. 6 Pirates prospect and Diaz was No. 14 prospect before the 2015 season.
Their presence makes this an interesting choice for the Pirates. On the one hand, if Cervelli—who will turn 30 before the 2016 season—can stay healthy and continue to produce like he did in 2015, he would likely be worth the extension. However, that would also theoretically block the path to the majors for the next couple of years for McGuire and Diaz (at least as regular catchers) and perhaps stunt their growth.
Pittsburgh also has to take into account the injury risk given Cervelli’s track record, even though he did stay healthy and produce in 2015.
The Pirates are in a loaded National League Central and made the playoffs last season alongside the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals partially because of Cervelli’s consistency. Now they have to decide whether he is worth keeping around for the foreseeable future.