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Inbox: Would it make sense to deal Cervelli?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers questions from fans
December 18, 2018

Do you think the Pirates will trade Francisco Cervelli? Should they? -- Greg J., PittsburghTwo different questions, so we'll handle them separately.Will they? Everything I heard at the Winter Meetings indicated that Cervelli is available, but the Pirates aren't actively looking to unload him. In other words, it sounds like

Do you think the Pirates will trade Francisco Cervelli? Should they?
-- Greg J., Pittsburgh

Two different questions, so we'll handle them separately.
Will they? Everything I heard at the Winter Meetings indicated that Cervelli is available, but the Pirates aren't actively looking to unload him. In other words, it sounds like they'd need the right return to move him. And I can't predict whether a team will make an offer that meets their demands.
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Whether they'll get the right return depends on how the catching market plays out, who still needs help behind the plate and how much they're willing to give up. The Dodgers make a lot of sense as a team with resources (both player depth and financial flexibility) and a short-term need behind the plate, and my colleague Ken Gurnick reported that the two clubs were in touch in Las Vegas. But the Dodgers have also been linked to the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, and there are still a handful of free agents out there who might not command Cervelli's $11.5 million salary for next year.
As long as there's a market, it's possible. But it's also fair to wonder if Cervelli's recent concussion issues will cause some teams to shy away, especially while alternatives remain on the free agent and trade fronts.
Now, should they? They should do whatever improves their chances of making the postseason, so it ultimately would depend on the return and/or what they do with that salary.
But after they bolstered their pitching staff at the Trade Deadline, it feels like they should be building around their core -- not subtracting from it. They added solid complementary players like Jungho Kang, Lonnie Chisenhall and Erik Gonzalez, and it would be odd to follow that up by parting with one of their most productive players.
Yes, Elias Diaz is probably ready for everyday work and Jacob Stallings won't be overmatched as a backup. But Cervelli's experience is valuable to their pitching staff, and his on-base skills are important to the depth of their lineup. Just before the Winter Meetings, I re-listened to an interview in which Chris Archer attributed pretty much all of his September success to Cervelli; stuff like that matters. And don't forget Cervelli had the Pirates' highest OPS last year behind Gregory Polanco, who will miss time to start the season.
Cervelli is a popular player, and moving him would raise even more questions about their budget. He and Diaz formed arguably the Majors' best duo behind the plate last season. Unless they're getting an offer they can't refuse, why downgrade a strength like that?
I kind of like the idea of an opener. It worked great for the Rays. Who might fill the role for the Bucs and who would pitch after him?
-- Stephen M., Lakewood Ranch, Fla.

It's a fascinating concept, and I wasn't too shocked to hear general manager Neal Huntington say they're considering it now that they have an open rotation spot. Important caveat: They still could decide to use a traditional five-man rotation, so all of this talk is hypothetical for now. But it's fun to think about.
I'd be intrigued by either Kyle Crick or Richard Rodriguez as an opener. Rodriguez dominated lefty hitters last season, and Crick similarly throttled right-handers. It'd be interesting to consider them both against the top of each opponent's lineup, then keep the other available for late-inning relief in front of Keone Kela and Felipe Vazquez.
Jordan Lyles will compete to be the fifth starter in Spring Training. But if the Pirates wind up using the "opener" plan, Lyles also seems like a candidate to be what Huntington called the "follower," a sort of long reliever who picks up multiple innings between the opener and the late-inning relievers.
Other potential followers are fellow fifth-starter candidates Nick Kingham -- you can't struggle in the first inning, like he did as a rookie, if you avoid it entirely -- and Steven Brault, who should have an advantage as a lefty following a righty opener.
Shouldn't the Pirates get another second baseman? Neil Walker?
-- Jon B., Greensburg, Pa.

I think they're comfortable with Adam Frazier being the everyday guy at second base heading into next season, and it's hard to blame them. Even after a brutal early season slump when his swing was out of whack, he finished the year hitting .277/.342/.456 with 10 homers in 352 plate appearances. He looked better defensively, except for one rough game, as he settled in there.
The Pirates also have some depth at second. Kevin Kramer is going to be a much better player than his September debut might indicate. If they acquire another shortstop, they can mix in Gonzalez and Kevin Newman there as well.

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