Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What About Cervelli?

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

While Alex Rodriguez has dominated the Biogenesis headlines, for reasons both valid and ludicrous, he was not the sole Yankee representative on that suspension list.  Francisco Cervelli was also connected and tagged with a 50-game suspension, one that he, like every other non-A-Rod player, did not contest and will begin serving immediately.  Cervelli has flown largely undetected and unmentioned under the cloud of A-Rod, for obvious reasons.  He's injured, he just got the standard first time suspension, and he's Francisco Cervelli.  In the grand scheme of things his 50-game ban means very little.  For Frankie, it marks the nail in the coffin on another strange and frustrating season in pinstripes and possibly the final season in his Yankee career.

Suspended or not, Cervelli will not be returning to the field this season.  He's dealt with multiple setbacks to his right hand and elbow after breaking it in late April, and despite a recent visit to Dr. Andrews confirming that he won't need elbow surgery there's little point in trying to rush another comeback when he's going to be banned for 50 games anyway.  Cervelli can serve his suspension while on the DL, so there won't be any carryover into next season, but that comes as little consolation to the way his Yankee career has gone down.

After missing time in 2010 with concussions and in 2011 with a broken foot while trying to carve out a backup job, Cervelli was surprisingly sent to Triple-A right before the start of the 2012 season.  He had been the easy favorite for the backup job in the spring but got the boot when the front office decided they had to have Chris Stewart.  With Russell Martin gone and Stewart the only real remaining competition, 2013 was supposed to be Cervelli's chance to finally prove himself and early on it was.  He outperformed Stewart in spring camp and came out of the gate hot in the regular season with a .269/.377/.500 slash in 61 plate appearances (3 HR, 13.3 BB%).

If ever there was a time when the Yankees' needs and Frankie's desires coincided, it was this year.  He was the cheap, team-controlled catcher who was better than the rest of the slop they had available who they could plug into Martin's spot.  They were the team whose poor decision making left them with catching depth barren of any talent, just the type of situation a player of Cervelli's limited skills needed to get a real chance.  Then his hand was broken, he had his setbacks, the Biogenesis case picked up and he got suspended, and now Cervelli has basically made like Mike Tyson and faded into bolivian.

So now what for Frankie?  He's a 27-year-old heading into his first year of arbitration eligibility with a recent steroid suspension on his resume and coming off a season shortened and ended by injuries to his throwing hand and elbow.  That's about as low a bargaining position as a player could be in.  The Yankees will still have a major need for catching depth whether they bring Stewart back again or not.  But will they think it's worth their time for another go with Cervelli?  They've seen what he is as a player and his connection to PEDs now brings into the question the legitimacy of the small amount of success he's had.  The less steroid news for the Yanks the better with A-Rod around, and with at least some of his money coming off the books next season they could decide to upgrade at catcher after seeing the error of their ways this year.

It's been a long, strange trip for Frankie in New York.  He's gone from "who the hell is this guy???" to sneaky fan favorite to the early breakout Yankee of 2013 to out with a suspension and possibly out of a job.  It took him 5 years to get his Yankee career going and after this season it could be over just when it looked like it was starting to go in the right direction.

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