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Marlins make veteran Cervelli signing official

@JoeFrisaro
January 9, 2020

MIAMI -- Most of the Marlins’ offseason has been focused on improving a stagnant offense and adding position-player depth. On Thursday, the organization solidified its catching position by officially announcing the free-agent signing of Francisco Cervelli to a one-year contract. Cervelli, according to sources, will make $2 million. The deal

MIAMI -- Most of the Marlins’ offseason has been focused on improving a stagnant offense and adding position-player depth. On Thursday, the organization solidified its catching position by officially announcing the free-agent signing of Francisco Cervelli to a one-year contract.

Cervelli, according to sources, will make $2 million.

The deal was anticipated, especially since the two sides reached agreement before Christmas, pending completion of a physical. Cervelli, 33, had been out of the country and is now ready to join Miami’s pitchers and catchers when they report to Spring Training on Feb. 12 in Jupiter, Fla.

In a corresponding move to create 40-man roster space for Cervelli, the Marlins designated for assignment outfielder Austin Dean.

A 12-year veteran, Cervelli split time with the Pirates and Braves in 2019.

The addition of Cervelli gives the Marlins a proven veteran to back up Jorge Alfaro, who is expected to get most of the work behind the plate. Chad Wallach, the other catcher on the 40-man roster, projects to open the season at Triple-A Wichita.

The announcement of Cervelli comes two days after the Marlins introduced free-agent outfielder Corey Dickerson, who signed a two-year deal.

The Marlins have enjoyed a busy, yet under-the-radar offseason, adding veterans with track records that fit into the organization’s long-term building process. In early December, the Marlins also acquired infielder Jonathan Villar and first baseman Jesús Aguilar.

“When I met with you guys at the beginning of this offseason, our biggest priority was to improve this offense,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said on Tuesday during a conference call to introduce Dickerson. “In 2019, the Miami Marlins were not a very good offensive club.”

The Marlins ranked last in the Majors in home runs and second to last in runs.

“This offseason, the focus was improving our offense,” Hill said. “We were aggressive early in our opportunity to add Jonathan Villar and Jesús Aguilar to the organization.”

Cervelli is a former teammate of Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter, having played for the Yankees from 2008-14. He was with the Pirates from '15-19.

In 714 MLB games, Cervelli is a career .269 hitter, with a .358 on-base percentage. He also has played some first and third base, but his primary roles in Miami will be to back up Alfaro and assist in the development of a young pitching staff.

Last season, Cervelli appeared in just 48 games, batting .213/.302/.348. He served a 60-day injury list stint due to a concussion.

While Wallach made the Opening Day roster in 2019, he appeared in just 19 games, also missing time with a concussion.

Bryan Holaday became the primary backup catcher last year, but he was designated for assignment in October and became a free agent.

Alfaro was acquired from the Phillies as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade. The 26-year-old hit .262 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs in 130 games, but he has dealt with inconsistencies defensively.

Along with Cervelli, the Marlins have signed four other catchers to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training -- Ryan Lavarnway, B.J. López, Santiago Chávez and Brian Navarreto.

Dean, 26, was the Marlins' fourth-round Draft pick in 2012. The right-handed-hitting left fielder batted .225 with six home runs and 21 RBIs in 64 games with Miami last year. At Triple-A New Orleans, he hit .337 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.