The Pittsburgh Pirates today traded LHP Justin Wilson to the New York Yankees for Catcher Francisco Cervelli. This marks the third straight year the Pirates acquired a catcher that played for the Yankees in the previous season.
Here was my initial reaction when I heard about this deal.
Cervelli? That’s a big meh.
— Rich (@shamtown) November 13, 2014
Since then I’ve softened a bit on the trade. Cervelli is not a bad catcher. He’s an injury risk, he’s not even nearly a sure thing, but he is talented.
He’s not Russell Martin. He costs a fraction of Russell Martin though. And I think it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he replaces some of what Martin brought to the table. Check out this article Grantland posted in 2013.
It seems like the Pirates and Yankees share a focus on pitch framing, how else can you explain the interest in these three guys?
Here is a quick list of Free Agent Catchers from Cot’s.
John Buck – 0.0 WAR
Ryan Doumit – -0.4 WAR
Nick Hundley – 0.1 WAR
Gerald Laird – -0.5 WAR
Russell Martin – 5.5 WAR
Jeff Mathis – 0.1 WAR
Wil Nieves – 0.7 WAR
Ronny Paulino – DNP
A.J. Pierzynski – -0.9 WAR
David Ross – -0.3 WAR
Geovany Soto – 0.2 WAR
Cervelli had a 1.1 WAR. The Pirates have to bank on him playing though, which hasn’t exactly been his strong suit. He’s never played in 100 games, never started more than 80. That’s not an insignificant problem.
Justin Wilson goes the other way. I could see him having some fine seasons but is that a major loss? He’s not a closer. He’s not a setup man. He’s not even a seventh inning guy. He has great stuff, and if the Yankees can harness it he’ll be a fine reliever.
Basically the Pirates got about as much as you can expect out of a pretty shitty market. Available catchers are quite literally Russell Martin then nothing. Therefore I take back my “big meh” and replace it with an “okay, let’s see what happens”.
Is the team worse than last year right now? Yes. How much worse remains to be seen.