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Give Huntington Credit When He Doesn’t Trade Cervelli

Doing the right thing is often hard. Especially when it might not be the right thing.

Right now the Pirates have a trump card that is very tempting to use. While second baseman and corner outfielders are losing value, catchers have not had this much value…. ever. Combine that aspect with the fact that the Pirates effectively have two starters (and/or two backups) at catcher and the thought has be tempting to trade Francisco Cervelli.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes for Cervelli who is in the last year of his contract:

  1. Traded this offseason
  2. Traded at trade deadline
  3. Plays season, offered Qualifying offer and declines, becomes Free Agent and signs elsewhere.
  4. Plays season, offered Qualifying offer and declines, becomes Free Agent and re-signs.
  5. Plays season, offered Qualifying offer and accepts
  6. Plays season, not offered Qualifying offer becomes Free Agent and signs elsewhere.
  7. Plays season, not offered Qualifying offer becomes Free Agent and re-signs.
  8. Extended beyond this season this offseason
  9. Extended beyond this season during season

(I bet you didn’t think there were nine scenarios)

#1 and #9 are all about what the Pirates think of his body of work up to this point, as well as for #1 what prospects are being offered. The rest all have to do with the current body of work and everything after he hits Spring Training. While I could spend many words on discussing #2 thru #9 I just want to speak to whether or not #1 will happen.

Trade winds blowing?

While it’s come out in the media in the last week, due to our friend Jason Rollison, the Pirates are listening to offers on Cervelli, which is very smart on Neal Huntington’s part.

It helps having some big trades in recent memory for us to get a benchmark for what this could garner. It would pain most part fans to realize this but right now Cervelli has much more value than Andrew McCutchen did last off-season. McCutchen brought back a good prospect in Bryan Reynolds and a nice young bullpen piece in Kyle Crick. Would I deal Cervelli for this return ? Never. Would I deal him for another Mitch Keller? That’s where it gets tempting.

There ?s been much talk in the media about the Miami Marlins possibly dealing J.T. Realmuto, their starting catcher. He ?s a plus hitting backstop who plays good defense and is controlled for two more years. There hasn ?t been any official statement on what teams have offered the Marlins but the rumors have been interesting to say the least.

Kiley McDaniel over at Fangraphs penned a great article about how much this catcher would cost and used real prospect names. I will try to come up with a value for Cervelli.

Cervelli graded out as a top five catcher last year and is one of the most recognizable Pirates on a national scale, not just because of his handsome good looks but also his time in the Yankees organization. I don ?t think I need to tell you why the Pirates should do this. Cervelli is only controlled for one more year and then he ?s a free agent. Last year saw him battle concussion issues,which was in addition to all the other injuries that have caused him to miss time over his first seven seasons. The Yankees traded him to us for Justin Wilson due to this fact. Add in the depth with Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings and you probably get the “Why?” part.

Sabermetrically, Cervelli could be a 3-4 WAR catcher this year assuming he stays healthy. If we call him a 3.5 WAR catcher and use the $9-$10M per WAR that McDaniel uses in the FG article we end up with $33.25M ($9.5M/WAR x 3.5). Subtracting $11.5M of salary gives a surplus value of $21.75. Using my nerd bosses’ calculations of Surplus Prospect Value we could land a nice prospect.

Tier Number of Players Avg. WAR Surplus Value
Hitters #1-10 58 15.9 $81.4M
Hitters #11-25 51 12.9 $65.6M
Hitters #26-50 109 7.5 $37.6M
Hitters #51-75 112 4.9 $24.1M
Hitters #76-100 117 4.2 $20.2M
Pitchers #1-10 31 14.4 $73.4M
Pitchers #11-25 51 9.1 $45.9M
Pitchers #26-50 90 6.5 $32.2M
Pitchers #51-75 121 4.1 $19.7M
Pitchers #76-100 135 3.2 $15.1M

To start getting some names refer back to McDaniel’s article and pick the 2nd or 3rd name on each of his trade proposals to get an idea of the folks we could return.

Why not?

I spelled out all the good things that could happen if Cervelli is traded, how he’s injury prone and how this might be a real opportunity to sell high on this asset. My last article I laid out some scenarios if they traded Cervelli. The title of this article is insinuating that I don’t believe Huntington will trade Cervelli. I don’t think he will.

The Chris Archer trade made no sense to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it; it was just SO counter to what Huntington has done his whole tenure. Prospects like Glasnow, Meadows, Hearn and Baz were supposed to be brought up at the Super Two deadline, play 4.5 to 5.5 years of their 6.5 years of control pre-free agency and be traded for some young prospects.

With the bullpen and rotation the Pirates have collected and the depth they have on the 40 man I think that this team is primed for a Division or Wild Card run and Huntington knows this. He also knows that having TWO catchers that could be 3-4 WAR players, with decent framing and good defense means you’ll probably be OK at catcher. A trade of Cervelli and an injury or regression of Diaz and our playoff chances become much less.

So when Huntington doesn’t trade Cervelli for another team’s KeBryan Hayes or Mitch Keller give him credit, it will be painful for him.

Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.

7 Comments on Give Huntington Credit When He Doesn’t Trade Cervelli

  1. The assertion that Cervelli can be a 3.5 WAR player is based on some tenuous assumptions: he’s only matched that once in his career (per Baseball Prospectus’) numbers, and it assumes health, which is a dicey proposition for any catcher, and is exceptionally optimistic given Cervelli’s concussion history. Trading Cervelli now in a seller’s market would be a classic sell-high move, and it’s one that NH should not hesitate to make if the offer is right.

    • Kevin Creagh // December 4, 2018 at 11:07 AM // Reply

      The school of thought is that Fangraphs WAR greatly undervalues catcher WAR, something FG people routinely admit. When Cervelli was at his peak of framing powers, he was easily a 3.5 WAR catcher.
      While I agree that Cervelli is a sell-high move, I think his concussion history scares a lot of teams off.

      And I admitted in an article that I was wrong about Diaz, but I’m not necessarily ready to say he’s a 115-game catcher for me, either.

  2. Top100they are not // December 4, 2018 at 11:52 AM // Reply

    The two players rumored to be offered both 40fv(fangraphs has 120 guys rated 50fv and up) are a guy who noticeably slows down his delivery to let everyone know a breaking ball is coming (’18 deadline) and a guy with a sidearm delivery that any lefty can see a mile away that per fangraphs screams reliever (recent rumor). Not remotely Keller or Hayes 55fv guys. Boston has no one over 45 and that guy is a 1b who’s plummeted. If a team offers a 50 or 55 I reconsider.

  3. I live for these hypotheticals. Do I WANT to trade Cervelli? No, not really. I like the guy a lot, moreso for his clubhouse leadership and the fact that he is loved by the entire team. He’s the Italian version of Carlos Beltran in Astroball..

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this a bit and I like to see where value may lineup, you know.. just in case.

    So for starters, I value Cervelli more around 2.5-3 WAR, albeit arbitrary, I think we need to be on the safeside. I personally have bumped $/WAR to $9m for inflation or something. But let’s just go w/ a range between $11-$14M for my estimate in value.

    Next, let’s look at destinations. I think that Houston, Oakland, Boston, or NYM could be options. Now on to the bounty (all FV$ based on FG new articles that came out last month):

    Freudis Navas – SS – ETA 2022 – FV$: $6M
    JB Bukauskas – RHP – ETA 2019 – FV$: $4M
    Josh James – RHP – ETA 2018/19 – FV$ $3M

    If I’m HOU, I doubt that I give up that haul, but I think PGH would love to add those arms for 2019.

    Sheldon Neuse – 3B – ETA 2019 – FV$: $6M
    James Kaprielian – RHP – ETA 2019 – FV$: $6M

    Pittsburgh lacks pop in the lineup, and Neuse has + Power potential. They did it w/ Cruz and traded for power, and it may be the best way to obtain it.. rather than scout/develop it.

    Triston Casas – 1B – ETA 2022 – FV$: $6M
    Darwinizon Hernandez – LHP – ETA 2021 – FV$: $4M
    Mike Sharwyn – RHP – ETA 2019 – FV$: $1M

    I like this one for a few reasons: 1) It’s potentially realistic. When the two teams discussed Cervelli before, the Pirates were linked to Hernandez. As they talk now, they’re linked to Sharwyn (Thanks to @jrollisonPGH for this info too!) and 2) I like trading for power, something that Casas has in spades. Do you trade 2 pitchers and your 2018 first round pick for 1 year of Cervelli? IDK, man.. I’m spitballin’.

    Franklyn Kilome – RHP – ETA 2019 – FV$: $6M
    Francisco Alvarez – C – ETA 2023 – FV$: $4M

    This trade gets you an arm for this season and Diaz’s replacement!

    I think I’m in agreement that PGH won’t trade Cervelli. I don’t think it’s a seller’s market. Perhaps they could wait until the deadline, he stays healthy and produces, then go after a bigger fish when teams pay a premium.. but that’s a lot of variables. If these 4 options were on the table today, I’d probably pull the trigger on the HOU haul.

  4. id rather not

  5. Phillip C-137 // December 5, 2018 at 12:52 AM // Reply

    Francisco Cervelli
    – Pros – Top 5 Catcher (2018), works well with the young Pitchers, adequate
    backup at 1st, 2018 WAR 3.3 (FG) or 2.6 (BR).
    – Cons – Age 33 (2019 season), $11.5 mil, Placed on DL 8 times in last 2
    – Ranks- HR #12, XBH #14, AVG #9 (min 300 AB), OBP #1 (min 300 AB), BB #5,
    OPS #4 (min 300 AB).

    As much as I enjoy when Cervelli is “on” (A-game catching and being an offensive catalyst) it is just not frequent enough for him to be any more than slightly about average. Particularly when you factor in all of the DL downtime.

    I see a guy with deteriorating skills, prone to concussion and a whiner when batting and he misjudges pitches that are actual strikes. Although to be honest, I don’t know how to quantify “handsome good looks”.

    My vote goes in the TRADE column. Get what you can. And get it now, provided the $11.5 mil gets reinvested into upgrading the 2019 team.

  6. Nice article. Perhaps the lack of catching talent explains the failure of the Pirate organization to produce catchers during the NH tenure. At any other position I would say trade but for catcher I would wait until closer to the trade deadline.

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