Francisco Cervelli‘s been with the Yankees for quite some time now. Originally signed out of Venezuela way back in 2003, Cervelli broke in with the Yanks in 2008, making him one of just five current Yankees to have played for the team in the old stadium. Along the way, Cervelli’s caught hundreds of Yankee pitchers — from Carl Pavano to Masahiro Tanaka, served a 50-game PED suspension, and even celebrated a World Series victory with A-Rod and Jay-Z.
Cervelli’s never been the main guy behind the plate, but has been a big part of the Yankees’ catching situation for six years now. And although he was a glove-first player for most of his career, he’s shown signs of life with the bat the past couple of years, hitting .275/.352/.456 — way more than adequate for a catcher. Couple that with his much-improved defense, and Cervelli’s developed into a pretty decent player. But beyond this year, the 28-year-old’s future with the Yankees looks a little uncertain.
Brian McCann will be entrenched as the team’s starting catcher for at least the next two or three years, and there’s certainly no shortage of able-bodied receivers behind him. With McCann, Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy, Austin Romine, and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees will have a glut of MLB-ready catchers to juggle next season, and Cervelli could wind up being without a seat when the music stops. Cervelli’s entering into his second year of arbitration, which means he’ll likely make a bit more than Murphy and Romine next year. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Yankees dealt Cervelli this winter, opting to roll with one of their lower-cost options as McCann’s caddy.
One thing that could be Cervelli’s saving grace is his ability to frame pitches. Between this year and last, he’s saved an impressive 14 runs more than the average catcher according to Baseball Prospectus. The Yankees are one of only a few teams who seem to fully buy into the value of pitch framing, meaning they probably value Cervelli more than many of their potential trade partners. But the same can also be said about Murphy and Romine, who are good framers in their own right. Sanchez, on the other hand, is a shaky defender by all accounts, who has “no feel for pitch framing” according to a recent scouting report from Baseball Prospectus. Given how highly the Yankees value catcher defense, they might try to deal him now while some teams still think he can be a serviceable catcher. Basically the Jesus Montero drill all over again.
The Yankees have a bit of a log jam behind the plate. Sanchez will be ready to start next season in Triple-A, which would leave the Bombers with five serviceable catchers between the organization’s two highest levels. Something’s gotta give. Plus, the Yankees will have quite a few holes to fill this winter, and catcher is the only position where they really have any sort of surplus to trade from.
Yankee fans spent much of 2009-2012 lamenting Cervelli’s impotent bat and inability to throw out runners, but he’s since turned himself into a pretty solid player. Between his league average-ish bat and superior defensive abilities, a healthy Cervelli could be a be a three win player over a full season of games — easily good enough to start on more than a few MLB teams. Staying healthy has been something of an issue for Cervelli the last couple of years, but even so, there would be no shortage of suitors should the Yankees decide to dangle him this offseason.
The Yankees have a small army of catchers on their roster, making it pretty likely that one of them will be dealt this winter, and Cervelli seems like one of the more likely candidates. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Cervelli — and the rest of the Yankees catchers — as they figure out their catching situation in the coming months.
This article originally appeared on Pinstripe Alley.