Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors: Astros Still Targeting Francisco Cervelli?

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Could the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros swing a trade for a second consecutive offseason?

So far this offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates have made a pair of free agent signings by re-signing Jung Ho Kang and coming to terms with Lonnie Chisenhall. The team has also swung one trade involving Major League talent when Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff was traded to the Cleveland Indians for super utility man Erik Gonzalez and two pitching prospects.

With these moves now in the rear view, all signs point toward the Pirates still having more moves coming. One move that has been discussed is a potential trade of catcher Francisco Cervelli. As we covered on Tuesday, one of the teams interested in Cervelli is the Houston Astros.

Since then, the Astros have signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a two-year contract. When you combine this with catcher Max Stassi already being on the roster and it’s reasonable to think the Astros may no longer be interested in Cervelli. But is this the case?

Odds are, adding Chirinos will not damper the Astros’ interest in Cervelli. Both Chirinos and Stassi project as strong backup catchers, but not necessarily starting options.

Chirinos played in a career high 113 games in 2018, while Stassi set a career high in games with 88. Prior to last season, Chirinos had appeared in more than 70 games just twice in his seven-year MLB career. Meanwhile, Stassi entered the 2018 season with just 44 career games played.

While Stassi is a pitch framing expert and Chirinos is a strong defender who is slightly above average offensively, Cervelli is still the best two-way option of the two. On top of excelling at handling a pitching staff, Cervelli’s career 107 wRC+ is the highest of the three catchers as well.

Another factor here could be Gerrit Cole. It is possible that the ex-Pirate could be pushing for the Astros to acquire Cervelli. Cole has become Houston’s ace, so his word and recommendation should carry clout within the organization. Due to Cole’s familiarity with Cervelli, it would not be a surprise if he would want to reunite with his former batterymate.

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If the Pirates move Cervelli, rather it be to the Astros or someone else, they will want MLB players in return. That or prospects ready to breakthrough and make an impact at the MLB level.

After all, the Pirates are looking to compete in 2019. However, due to the emergence of Elias Diaz in 2018 catcher became a position of depth and strength. This is what could allow them to trade Cervelli away to address needs elsewhere, such as the bullpen or middle infield.

With MLB’s Winter Meetings set to kickoff on Sunday evening, we could get an answer to the question ‘will Francisco Cervelli be a Pirate in 2019?’ sooner rather than later. Make sure to stay tuned with us here at Rum Bunter throughout the Winter Meetings for all things Pirate related.