The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Tuesday afternoon that they have agreed to a three-year extension with catcher Francisco Cervelli, which will run through the 2019 season. Financial details of the deal have not been announced. More on this shortly.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) May 17, 2016
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the total value of the deal is $31M.
Sources: Francisco Cervelli has signed a three-year contract extension with the Pirates. Total money is $31 million.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 17, 2016
Pirates GM Neal Huntington had this to say about the deal:
“We are very pleased to be able to reach a joint commitment with a quality player and person like Francisco Cervelli,” said Huntington. “We look forward to Francisco’s abilities, passion and energy making us better through at least the 2019 season.”
UPDATE: Stephen Nesbitt has a breakdown of the contract, confirming the total from Passan.
Source: Francisco Cervelli’s contract is worth $31 million over three years.
— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) May 17, 2016
Cervelli was set to become a free agent after the season, and unless he finished the year out poorly, he would have made a good deal more than he got signing this extension. For him though, it’s now guaranteed financial security and a large raise over the $3.5M he is getting this season. Many players who sign extensions mention the financial security as the reason they sign lesser deals, noting that it’s still a ton of money and they no longer have to worry about it, and can just go out there and play.
From the Pirates side, they have now locked up many of their players through the 2019 season, either through extensions or from the fact they won’t reach free agency before then. When you add in the prospects who are on the way, it gives the Pirates a strong core for the near future. It also gives the Pirates more cost certainty, allowing them to do more with the payroll in the future.
UPDATE: Analysis from Tim Williams…
As John noted above, the Pirates are set with their current lineup for the next few years. They’ve got the following guys under control through the following years:
C – Francisco Cervelli (2019)
1B – John Jaso (2017)
2B – Josh Harrison (2020)
SS – Jordy Mercer (2018)
3B – Jung-ho Kang (2019)
LF – Starling Marte (2021)
CF – Andrew McCutchen (2018)
RF – Gregory Polanco (2023)
Jaso is the only player who isn’t under control beyond 2017, but the Pirates have Josh Bell in Triple-A. Jordy Mercer is under control through 2018, but that gives plenty of time for Kevin Newman to arrive. Then there’s the Andrew McCutchen/Austin Meadows situation, which we’ll ignore for now.
Cervelli has been a huge addition for the Pirates, and a great replacement for Russell Martin. Since the start of last year, Cervelli has out-performed Martin, hitting for a .291/.373/.384 line in 650 plate appearances, while Martin has posted a .226/.312/.404 line in 622 plate appearances during that same time. This has led to a 4.5 fWAR from Cervelli, and a 2.8 fWAR from Martin, and this doesn’t even factor in their framing values, where Cervelli has edged out Martin.
The biggest risk in this deal would be Cervelli’s health. That was a risk when the Pirates first acquired him, although they’ve done a good job keeping him healthy, and did the same with Martin for two years. Still, he’s 30 years old, and we’re talking about an extension that covers his age 31-33 seasons, so health isn’t a guarantee going forward.
You’d also have to wonder how long his current offensive profile will hold up. His success the last two years has been fueled by hitting for average and a high BABIP. His career BABIP is .341, and he’s at .344 this year. He’s also been above the career numbers in each of the last three seasons, which helps fuel the career totals.
A big reason for the high BABIP numbers is a focus on hitting line drives and grounders, which have the highest BABIP, rather than focusing on fly balls, which have the lowest BABIP. Cervelli’s fly ball rate was in the 33% range from 2009-2011. It jumped to 41.9% in 2013. Since then, it has dropped each year, to 30.5% in 2014, 26.9% in 2015, and 20.4% this year. But you have to wonder how long he can continue this, especially with the ability to hit line drives and grounders with solid enough contact to continue hitting for a high average.
The good news is that Cervelli doesn’t need to perform as well as he has been performing the last few years. His contract averages $10 M per year, which is about 1.5 WAR or less on the open market. His defense alone could cover most of that value, even without any offensive contributions.
I’ll have more on Cervelli tonight in First Pitch.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.