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Pirates release Cervelli, next stop Atlanta?

@adamdberry
August 22, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Thursday requested unconditional release waivers for veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli, giving him a chance to join a club contending for the postseason. Cervelli may soon find a fit in Atlanta. The Braves are nearing a deal with Cervelli, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, but

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Thursday requested unconditional release waivers for veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli, giving him a chance to join a club contending for the postseason. Cervelli may soon find a fit in Atlanta.

The Braves are nearing a deal with Cervelli, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, but there are still obstacles standing in the way. Cervelli must first clear release waivers, which is likely considering any claiming club would have to take on the remainder of his $11.5 million salary. It takes 48 hours for a player to officially clear unconditional release waivers. After that, assuming he clears, Cervelli will be free to sign with any team for the prorated portion of the Major League minimum salary while the Pirates cover the rest of his deal.

The Pirates released Cervelli, who hasn’t appeared in a Major League game since May 25 after sustaining a concussion, after general manager Neal Huntington said the club had “multiple conversations with him and his agent regarding his projected playing time” down the stretch. Cervelli was participating in a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis; he caught seven innings on Wednesday and reported no issues related to his concussion. With the Pirates’ focus set on next season and beyond, they likely preferred to give playing time to controllable catchers Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings rather than the pending free agent Cervelli.

“Out of respect and appreciation for Francisco, we have chosen to honor his request to be released in order for him to pursue an opportunity that potentially gives him a chance at more playing time, as well as an opportunity this season to compete in the postseason,” Huntington said in a statement. “We appreciate who Francisco is and all he has done for the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh. We believe this was the right move for the right reasons and wish Francisco well.”

The Braves certainly have a need behind the plate. Catcher Brian McCann went on the 10-day injured list Wednesday with a sprained left knee, leading Atlanta to call up Alex Jackson from Triple-A Gwinnett to share catching duties with Tyler Flowers. Both McCann and Flowers have struggled at the plate of late, with Flowers hitting .222/.299/.412 for the season while also allowing an MLB-high 13 passed balls.

Cervelli began the season batting .193 across 34 games before he suffered a concussion when Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson’s bat struck him in the head on a back swing. It was the latest in a series of concussion issues for the veteran backstop dating back to his tenure with the Yankees earlier this decade. McCann and Cervelli were Yankees teammates in 2014 before New York traded Cervelli to the Pirates for reliever Justin Wilson.

Last season, Cervelli slashed .259/.378/.431 with a career-high 12 homers and 57 RBIs in 104 games. He was frequently praised by Pittsburgh’s pitching staff for his game-calling and leadership behind the plate, and he graded out as one of the game’s best pitch-framers as recently as 2015.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.