Francisco Cervelli endured an injury-plagued season with the Pittsburgh Pirates that eventually saw him granted his release. He appeared rejuvenated after signing with the Atlanta Braves in September where he earned a spot on the team’s postseason roster.
What went right in 2019?
Not much prior to signing with the Braves. After hitting .193/.279/.248 in 34 games with the Pirates, Cervelli slashed .281/.378/.688 in 14 games with Atlanta. Astonishingly, eight of Cervelli’s nine hits in a Braves uniform went for extra bases (5 doubles, 2 homers, 1 triple). With Brian McCann nursing a sore knee, Atlanta needed Cervelli to provide veteran insurance behind the plate and he was able to do that. The offensive contributions couldn’t have been expected but they were a bonus nonetheless.
He hit a triple (yes, really, though it maybe should have been a “triple”) that allowed the Braves to tie the game at one apiece in a Coors Field makeup game before they lost on a walkoff homer. It was pretty amusing.
Because of his good run with the Braves, he managed to finish the season with positive fWAR (0.1) after spending most of the year in negative territory with the Pirates.
What went wrong in 2019?
Cervelli was once considered as one of the top catchers in the National League. His career has been marred by injuries and, in particular, concussions. Cervelli suffered the sixth documented concussion of his career in July and there were rumblings that he planned to give up on catching completely. Given his offensive struggles, that would have likely led to the end of his career. Cervelli came back a week later and denied that he intended to give up catching. He later asked the team for his release which was granted in August. He signed a major league deal with the Braves on August 22. As a Brave, though, his 37 PAs were mostly charmed.
What can we expect in 2020?
Cervelli will be a free agent this offseason. While his offensive contributions have declined over the years, he is still regarded as a good pitch receiver behind the plate. His concussion history will be a concern for any team that is interested in acquiring his services. Regular season rosters expanding to 26 players next season will undoubtedly help his chances. The Braves will be looking for at least one catcher this offseason and it will be interesting to see if Cervelli ends up being some sort of fallback option. He’s a very risky option to move forward with as a timeshare catcher expected to receive substantial playing time, however.