Thursday, March 20, 2014

New York Yankees: Francisco Cervelli is more valuable as backup than trade chip

Rumors have been swirling over the last few weeks about New York Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli being a target of other teams because of the Yankees’ depth at the position. It would seem teams might be ready to send offers to the Bombers based on Cervelli’s experience and his impressive offensive performance this spring. Maybe they already have.

Usually if a player is clicking on all cylinders his value immediately begins to rise in the eyes of those outside of an organization. The problem for those teams is that the Yankees might not be so willing to depart with Cervelli considering their other options haven’t been as productive this spring and who simply may not be ready to be Brian McCann’s full-time backup.

Cervelli is hitting a robust 14-for-28 with a team-leading three home runs this spring and a 1.462 OPS through Wednesday’s game. His competition, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy, are hitting .192 and .080 respectively through Wednesday. Catching prospect Gary Sanchez was never in the picture for a big league role this spring.

In 2013, Romine put together a paltry .206/.255/.296 line in 143 plate appearances mostly backing up Chris Stewart. Murphy saw limited action at the end of the 2013 season with the Yanks, spending a majority of his time with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He opened some eyes ripping a combined 29 doubles and 12 homers with a .773 OPS in 460 total plate appearances in the minors last year.

Cervelli has been fairly solid with the bat during his five-plus seasons shuttling back and forth between the minors and the Bronx. He sports a .271/.343/.367 line in 595 major league plate appearances. Cervelli was off to a solid start in 2013 (.269/.377/.500 in 60 PA) before suffering a thumb injury and then he was suspended for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.

Cervelli’s name has been linked to the Chicago White Sox who are looking for depth at the catcher’s position, with second baseman Gordon Beckham as the rumored player coming back to the Yankees. This makes some sense for the Yankees on the surface. With a fragile Brian Roberts at second the Yanks might have some interest in Beckham. But, the young infielders in camp have impressed thus far and may make it easier to stick with Cervelli. That is for now.

I believe there is a good chance that the Yankees will hold pat to start the season. If McCann goes down with a lengthy injury, having Cervelli is probably the best bet as a replacement this season. It allows Romine and more importantly Murphy a chance for regular reps in the minors. Sticking Murphy, ranked number four among Yankees prospects by MLB.com, in a backup role does him little good in my opinion.

The Yankees will likely hold their breath with Roberts and his proclivity for injury. If something significant was to happen to him they would either ask Brendan Ryan to shift over from his backup shortstop role or use any of the players currently fighting for the last infield bench spot – Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, Dean Anna or Yangervis Solarte. Or they could move Kelly Johnson, the team’s assumed third baseman, to second and have one of the others mentioned slot in at third base. The point is they have options which might not be any worse than Beckham.

If such a circumstance arose, and none of the in-house options panned out, the Yankees could begin to look further into a trade partner for Cervelli assuming by that time there is some more comfort in Romine or Murphy coming up in Cervelli’s place.

In my view, there are too many what-ifs right now for the Yankees to consider dealing Cervelli, who could potentially start 30-40 games this season. Besides the fact that he is not going to hurt the team offensively, he knows the pitching staff better than McCann or anyone else in the organization at this point and that goes a long way.

While it’s nice to play around with names of teams/players where there seems to be match, it is also very important to look beyond the immediate impact. In this case, despite the Yankees depth as an organization in the catcher slot, only Cervelli brings the assurance of being a solid major league catcher right now. He’s more important as a member of the team than he is as a trade chip at this moment in the season.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.



No comments:

Post a Comment