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Marlins “working to try to sign” C Francisco Cervelli

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Cervelli is a former Derek Jeter teammate not far removed from being an above-average starting catcher, but he’s coming off a rough year and entering his age-34 season.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just days after finalizing their first free agent signings of the MLB offseason, the Marlins have reportedly targeted former Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli on the open market, according to MLB insider Jon Heyman.

Cervelli is coming off a contract extension that paid him $31 million over the past three seasons, but he will be a buy-low candidate for Miami. The Venezuelan backstop slashed .213/.302/.348 (73 wRC+) and produced 0.1 fWAR in 160 plate appearances in 2019. He was sidelined for months due to a concussion, one of a handful that he has sustained during his career. When the 33-year-old finally overcame his symptoms, the Pirates released him rather than having him play out the string on their roster. He then signed with the Braves and handled a reserve role for them.

That being said, Cervelli was a more-than-solid catching option just the prior season (124 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR in 404 PA). He annually posted a xwOBA and BB% marks better than the MLB average from 2015-2018, and although he has experienced a defensive drop-off, the metrics don’t see him as a liability.

Another key to all of this buzz, Heyman tweets, is Cervelli’s tenure with the Yankees—he signed with them as an amateur free agent in 2003 and wore big league pinstripes alongside current Marlins CEO Derek Jeter from 2008-2014. They won a World Series championship together in 2009. Jorge Posada, who is now a special advisor to the Marlins baseball operations department, was also on that team. He recommended Cervelli, per South Florida radio host Andy Slater.

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Hat tip to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, who identified Cervelli as a possible Marlins target several weeks. Frisaro also cited the Jeter relationship as an important factor.

Currently, the only two catchers on the Marlins 40-man roster are Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach. The latter impressed the organization in a reserve role early last season, but—like Cervelli—he was derailed by concussion-related symptoms. Wallach hasn’t appeared in the majors since May 21; he was cleared for minor league rehab assignments in July and August, but suffered setbacks both times.

On Wednesday, the Marlins announced catchers Santiago Chávez, Ryan Lavarnway, B.J. López and Brian Navarreto as non-roster invitees to 2020 spring training. They also selected Julian León in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and he has been an elite performer while playing winter ball in his native Mexico. While that depth is nice, Lavarnway is the only one among that bunch with any MLB reps under his belt.

Given his track record, positive clubhouse reputation and how other catchers have fared in this free agent class, Cervelli should be in line for a guaranteed contract in the $2-3 million range (perhaps with performance bonuses that could take the value slightly higher).

Poll

Would you want the Marlins to sign Francisco Cervelli to a one-year, $2.5 million deal?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Yes!
    (65 votes)
  • 5%
    No—like the player, but too expensive
    (4 votes)
  • 9%
    No—prefer the Marlins’ current catching depth
    (7 votes)
76 votes total Vote Now