Just-released Pirates backstop Francisco Cervelli evidently won’t spend much time on the open market. He is slated to ink a deal with the Braves, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via Twitter). Whether it’s of the major or minor-league variety isn’t known.
Cervelli still must clear release waivers before he’ll be able to sign a new deal. But that’s really just a formality, given that he’s still owed the balance of his $11.5MM salary — about $2.4MM. The Braves will only owe him the league minimum rate for any time spent on the MLB roster, with the Bucs paying the rest.
While it seemed at one point earlier this year that Cervelli would not attempt to return to catching duties, he emphatically quashed that concept and has donned the mask on a rehab assignment. Now, he’ll help the Braves cover for the recent loss of Brian McCann. Whether Cervelli will immediately join Tyler Flowers on the MLB roster isn’t known. It’s also possible that the club will tap John Ryan Murphy for that job and then bring up Cervelli once rosters expand.
Cervelli has hit well on his recent rehab stint, but that’s a limited sample against minor-league pitching. He was far from his peak form to begin the season, turning in 123 plate appearances of .193/.279/.248 hitting before he hit the injured list. With a rising chase rate and swinging-strike rate, declining average exit velocity, and worsening strikeout-to-walk numbers (25.2% K vs. 7.3% BB), the poor output was well-deserved.
The Braves will have to hope there’s more left in the tank. Cervelli has been a solid-two-way catcher for quite some time. Just last year, he was able to turn in a healthy .259/.378/.431 slash line with a dozen home runs. Regardless of the outlook with the bat in hand, the Atlanta organization is obviously interested in adding some veteran depth behind the dish. Better options aren’t likely to present themselves over the next week — after which time it will not be possible to acquire a postseason-eligible player. By picking up Cervelli, the club will add another layer of protection in the event that McCann is slow to return.