Should the Pirates trade veteran Cervelli?

November 29th, 2018
Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, right, celebrates with starting pitcher Jameson Taillon after making a swipe tag on Kansas City Royals' Ryan O'Hearn, who was out attempting to score on a fly out by' Brian Goodwin to end the top of the seventh inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Gene J. Puskar/AP

PITTSBURGH -- So far this offseason, rumors have focused more on whom the Pirates might add than whom they might deal away. They've already signed and , satisfying two needs, and they're still evaluating external options at shortstop. But could they move a veteran player this winter?
The Pirates are "open to dealing" catcher , Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reported on Wednesday night. It should come as no surprise that the Bucs might be willing to consider such a move, but that does not mean a trade is certain or even likely.
Cervelli would be Pittsburgh's highest-paid player next season, as he's set to make $11.5 million before entering free agency. More importantly, the Pirates almost always listen to offers for players who have only a year or two of club control remaining. It's a common way for small-market clubs to turn over their roster.

But there is a difference between actively pursuing trades and a willingness to consider them. The Pirates did not trade after the 2016 season, for instance, even though they discussed potential deals with other clubs. They did not deal  after the '15 season, either, instead waiting until the '16 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Cervelli would undoubtedly appeal to plenty of clubs. The energetic 32-year-old has put together a .270/.368/.384 slash line in four seasons with the Pirates, displaying rare on-base skills for a catcher. He tweaked his swing to add power last season, and he slugged a career-high 12 homers while posting an .809 OPS in 104 games. His caught-stealing rate jumped to 39 percent last season, and he is widely praised by his pitchers for his relationship-building and game-calling.

If they trade Cervelli, the Pirates could hand the starting job to . The 28-year-old is surely ready for everyday work after slashing .286/.339/.452 with 10 homers in 82 games last season. He has a strong arm, and his game-calling has improved. The Pirates also have a ready-made backup in , who is out of Minor League options.
Will the Pirates trade Cervelli this offseason? Only time will tell. For now, let's go back and forth with some arguments for and against such a move.
Trade: Catcher is a position of depth for Pittsburgh, with Diaz ready to start and Stallings on board. Perhaps the Pirates could reallocate Cervelli's salary to upgrade at several other positions, signing a shortstop and a lefty reliever or a back-end starter -- maybe even a lower-priced veteran who would maintain their depth behind the plate.
Keep: Catchers don't work 145-150 games anymore, so it's an asset to have a tandem like Cervelli and Diaz. Catching depth disappears in a hurry. (Remember the 2016 emergency duo of and ?) If they trade Cervelli and Diaz goes down, Stallings would be thrust into everyday duty without a proven backup. Also, the Pirates shed salary in a couple of big trades last offseason but didn't use the savings to sign a Major League free agent.
Trade: Cervelli's trade value is high after the year he had. There is no guarantee that value will hold steady until the Trade Deadline as he could decline or get hurt, which is of particular concern given his injury history. Cervelli has averaged 95 games per season over the last three years.
Keep: There's a reason Cervelli's value is high: He's a very good player, and the Pirates need as many good players as possible -- even at positions of apparent depth -- to contend in the National League Central. Even though he missed time, Cervelli was still one of the Pirates' most valuable players last season. He is important to the depth of their lineup and vital to the success of their pitching staff.
Trade: The Pirates have considered carrying three catchers rather than running the risk of losing Stallings, and using two bench spots on catchers is not optimal.
Keep: Having three catchers would allow Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to aggressively use Cervelli or Diaz off the bench, as he did last season, and occasionally utilize Cervelli as Josh Bell's backup at first base.
Trade: There might be a healthy market for Cervelli. The Dodgers, Rockies, Red Sox, Astros, Phillies, Angels and Mets, among others, would all benefit from adding a catcher like him, and a competitive market typically leads to a more impactful return.
Keep: The market is quite saturated with catchers even after the Rays (Mike Zunino), Braves () and Nationals () acquired new backstops. Clubs have other options to consider if they don't want to pay up for Cervelli, lessening the demand and potentially diminishing the return. J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher available, although the Marlins' asking price may be prohibitive. Other options include , , , , and .