ShareThis Page
Scouts: Acquiring Cervelli from Yankees cost Pirates promising reliever |

Scouts: Acquiring Cervelli from Yankees cost Pirates promising reliever

Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates reliever Justin Wilson reacts after walking in a run during the eighth inning against the Marlins on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, at PNC Park.

Several major league talent evaluators who scouted the Pirates last season said they paid a hefty price to acquire an insurance plan at catcher.

The Pirates acquired Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli for reliever Justin Wilson on Wednesday. Cervelli is Plan B at catcher should free agent Russell Martin depart, which seems likely considering the number of large-market clubs interested in Martin in a thin market for catchers.

Wilson, 27, has a rare arm for a left-handed pitcher — his fastball averages 95 mph — and is under club control for four more seasons and isn’t eligible for arbitration until after next season.

Cervelli, 28, is versatile, but he also has missed nearly as many games to injury (199) and as he’s played in (250) during his major league career. Plus, he served a 50-game Biogenesis suspension for PED use in 2013.

“Winning teams in this day and age have to have two (quality) left-handed relievers,” said an American League scout who spoke on a condition of anonymity. “I like Wilson a lot. … It’s a big blow to their pen.”

While Wilson (career 2.99 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts, 3.9 walks per nine innings) has battled inconsistency with his command, he has also hit 100 mph from the left side, a feat perhaps matched only by Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in recent years.

Said one National League scout: “There’s not many like him.”

The Pirates were in a tough spot. Catcher was their most glaring need entering the offseason, and beyond Martin, there are no starting-caliber, free agent catchers. The scout said he doubted the Pirates had confidence in Chris Stewart to hold up as a No. 1 catcher.

“(The price) also speaks to the catching crop,” the AL scout said. “If you get a (catcher) capable of playing a significant amount of games, you’re going to have to give up something of value. … (Cervelli) hasn’t been healthy to know what he’s about. We don’t know what he can be.”

Cervelli is an excellent pitch-framing catcher. It’s pitch-framing that, for the most part, led the Pirates to Martin and Stewart as undervalued players. It’s also pitch-framing that undoubtedly helped Pirates turn around pitchers Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez.

Cervelli has thrown out 27 percent of base stealers, which is league average. Martin has thrown out 32 percent. Cervelli has a career .278 batting average and .348 on-base percentage. He is eligible for arbitration and made $700,000 last season.

ESPN analyst Dan Symborski’s projection system has Cervelli being an above-average catcher with regular playing time, if he stays healthy.

“If he holds up,” Symborski wrote on his Twitter account. “Pirates may have a very solidly average catcher.”

And the Pirates need at least that at the position if they’re losing an All-Star performer in Martin.

“(Cervelli is) a quality all-around defender with some history of offensive production,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. “(Cervelli) gives us a viable alternative should Russ choose to sign elsewhere.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.