As first reported by El Extrabase, Marlins catcher Francisco Cervelli is retiring. He spent 13 seasons in the major leagues, including the 2020 campaign with the Fish where he was enormously valuable as a regular in the lineup and a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
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Today, I want to share the difficult decision I’ve made to end my career as a professional baseball player. I feel it’s important to share this with you, the fans, because your support throughout my 18-year long career has meant so much – you helped make my journey possible. During my career, I encountered injuries and made some bad decisions. But, I also learned so much. This game has brought me endless joy and happiness. I’ve received incredible support by so many, including countless teammates – my brothers in baseball – that I will carry in my heart forever. I also hold great pride in knowing that I strived to constantly make the impossible possible. My advice? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. If I did it, you can do it too. Today, I retire happy and fully satisfied, because I gave my heart and soul to this wonderful game. I am retiring because the time has come to put my health before my career. For a long time, I put baseball first, through countless concussions and injuries, because this game was my life; my whole world. But it’s clear to me now that my future holds so much more. For the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff. It’s time. My journey in this game would be nothing without the exceptional people that have supported me along the way, personally and professionally. I thank God and my family for their unconditional love and support. To the Yankees, Pirates, Braves, Marlins, the MLB teams that gave a young kid from Venezuela a chance at this game, I am eternally grateful. To my coaches and teammates (too many to name) and my agent, thank you for pushing me to be the best ballplayer I could be. Lastly, to the fans… the Cisco Kid is nothing without you. Thank you for everything. I will never forget all that this game has taught me. I wouldn’t trade the blood, sweat and tears for anything in the world. This game will always be my greatest love, because… well, THAT’S AMORE!
Cervelli also discussed his decision (in Spanish) with Mari Montes here.
The Marlins signed Cervelli in free agency to a one-year, $2 million contract for his age-34 season. They would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Entering spring training, the incumbent Jorge Alfaro seemed poised to catch the majority of Marlins games. That did not deter Cervelli from being a helpful teammate. “I have to pass on what I know to him,” the Venezuelan veteran said (h//t Joe Frisaro, MLB.com).
Cervelli’s offensive production in the Grapefruit League was underwhelming (.158/.320/.263 in 11 games), though he demonstrated good bat-to-ball skills with only three strikeouts in 25 plate appearances. With Alfaro’s build-up for the regular season stalled by an oblique injury, Cervelli had a path to an expanded role.
Cervelli remained active. Within weeks of the shutdown, his “Behind the Plate” digital mini series debuted, featuring new recipes every week. Moreover, he put those cooking skills to valuable use by preparing meals for South Florida families who truly needed them.
Fast-forward to Opening Day, July 24 against the Phillies, Cervelli learned that he’d be starting on relatively short notice when Alfaro became the first member of the Marlins traveling party to test positive for COVID. He went 1-for-3 with a walk that night while guiding Sandy Alcantara through an excellent outing. He would go on to catch 16 of the first 21 games of Miami’s season, rising as high as the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
It’s difficult to imagine how the Marlins would have overcome so much adversity without Cervelli.
- Cervelli posted a 124 wRC+ this season, 24% better than the MLB average and third-best among all Marlins who received significant playing time.
- He thrived with the bat in two-out situations, slashing .333/.462/.667 in 26 plate appearances.
- He caught for 26(!) different Marlins pitchers, from Alcantara and Pablo López to Josh D. Smith and Justin Shafer.
- Statcast rated Cervelli as an average pitch framer (0 runs from extra strikes). He did well at presenting borderline pitches around the corners of the plate, but struggled with high offerings.
- Opponents rarely attempted to steal against him, but the five who did were all successful.
High Points: Catching three-hit shutout vs. Orioles on Aug. 4 (the team’s first game back from COVID-19 hiatus); hitting ninth-inning, game-tying home run vs. Blue Jays on Aug. 11
Low Point: Suffering concussion on Aug. 22 during Sixto Sánchez’s debut, ultimately ending his career
As of this writing, Chad Wallach has emerged as a surprisingly competent catching option for the Marlins. But the tandem of Wallach and Alfaro is below average by MLB standards, and there isn’t much organizational depth behind them. The front office is likely to pursue an upgrade at the position during the 2020-21 offseason, and Saturday’s news takes one quality target off the market.
Congratulations to Cervelli on a lengthy, productive career! He has the experience and the temperament to be successful in whatever role he chooses to pursue next.