Is Francisco Cervelli a valid trade option?

The Dodgers still have only one bonafide major league catcher on their major league roster in Austin Barnes. Catching is in a downturn across major league baseball so the pickings are still slim.

The big name linked to the Dodgers has been J.T. Realmuto but another name has started to circulate the rumor mill, and this name belongs to Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli checks some of the boxes.

  • Free Agent after 2019, thus not impeding the Keibert Ruiz / Will Smith ascension
  • Coming off an outstanding offensive campaign in 2018 in which he had the 2nd best OPS+ in the NL for a catcher who appeared in at least 100 games.

But he doesn’t check all the boxes. He does not appear in the top 30 of framers in 2018.  In fact, he hasn’t been in the top 30 for framers in any of the past three years. Grandal was number one in 2018, number four in 2017, and number two in 2016. Austin Barnes didn’t play enough in 2016 but in 2017 he ranked 8th, and 13th in 2018.

Cervelli also has a payday in 2019 worth 11.5 Million. That is much less than what the QO that Grandal turned down but for a team trying to stay under the luxury tax while paying Kershaw/Ryu almost 50 Million it is a good chunk of change.

Another major sour note on Cervelli is that his offensive performance in 2016 / 2017 was very unlike the output in 2018. His OPS+ was 91/90/123 for an average OPS+ for those three years of 101 which is exactly the average OPS+ of someone named Austin Barnes.

The final note on Cervelli is that he had a well-earned reputation for being hurt during his career with NYY. He tried to put that to rest by playing in 130 games his first year with the Pirates in 2015. However, since than he has played in 101 / 81 / 104 games so for $11 Million you probably aren’t getting a full season of a healthy Cervelli. Entering his age 33 season, that probably doesn’t improve.

I’m not convinced he’s the better option over Barnes for 2019.

I wish I had better options to offer. The problem is that Grandal was an excellent fit for the Dodgers and replacing him isn’t going to be easy until Ruiz/Smith are ready, and even then, they would be hard-pressed to produce at anything close to the level that Grandal gave this team during his run as the Dodgers starting catcher. During the regular season.

The Dodgers would have to give up a lot simply to get the same production that Grandal gave them to get J.T. Realmuto and at the same time giving up the futures of Ruiz/Smith.

Dodgers management has a tough decision on how to handle the 2019 catching duties. As I concluded before I would simply run with Barnes and an adequate backup catcher but even getting that adequate backup catcher in today’s world won’t be easy.


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