By Matthew Kruth, The Burgh Blog Writer, @theburghblog_mk
PITTSBURGH – Francisco Cervelli is one of the most important players for the Pirates to keep healthy this year. Most Pirates fans know that having Francisco Cervelli around in Pittsburgh is fairly unlikely following the end of the 2016 season. Cervelli becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the Pirates are unlikely to sign him back. The reason is not because the Pirates are cheap, it’s because they do not need him.
Elias Diaz and Reese McGuire are the future behind the dish for this club. Diaz has already had a taste of the majors last year when he got called up in August. If he is able to have a strong showing on offense this year in AAA, he will all but lock up the starting role in Pittsburgh next season with Chris Stewart again as the backup.
Reese McGuire is a little bit farther away. He will begin the season in Altoona, and could get the call to Indianapolis if the Pirates call up Diaz during the season. I would expect that to happen in August again as Diaz will likely be called upon to again be the 3rd catcher on the big league squad.
But what does any of this have to do with Francisco Cervelli’s Health?
When the season ends, if Cervelli has stayed healthy throughout the season, the Pirates will assuredly offer him a qualifying offer, that is unless there is a new CBA in place changing the QO process. Cervelli will most likely decline the offer because he will be at the top of the free agent catching market.
It’s hard to know exactly how much the pick that the Pirates receive in exchange for Cervelli signing elsewhere may be worth. It will be worth millions of dollars. Not all of the top picks in the draft work out, but they have the best chances to produce quality MLB players.
There are only a few things that could happen for this series of events to not happen. First the Pirates could surprise everyone and sign Cervelli back. This seems the most unlikely of any outcome. The second possibility is that Francisco Cervelli doesn’t play well enough this year to warrant a qualifying offer. This is also pretty unlikely considering that much of Cervelli’s value comes from his defensive skills. Finally, and most importantly, the most likely reason Cervelli wouldn’t receive and subsequently decline a qualifying offer would be if he is injured and misses significant time during this season.
Not only will losing Cervelli to the DL for long stretch hurt the Pirates ability to win, but they will also lose the ability to offer him a qualifying offer. Look for the Pirates to be a little more conservative in their use of Cervelli. Last year he played in 130 games and had 510 plate appearances. Maybe those numbers shrink slightly to say 125 games and 475 PAs.
When Francisco Cervelli stays healthy throughout the season, that’s A’more.
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