Two years ago, Pirates fans spent the entire 2014 season wondering if Russell Martin would come back the following year. There were campaigns to extend him, and fear that the entire team would fall apart without him. All of this was ironic when you consider that hardly anyone thought Martin would be that good when he was signed prior to the 2013 season. The overwhelming belief was that he could provide good defense, wouldn’t provide offense, and had question marks on whether he could stay healthy.
Last year, the Pirates let Martin walk, and traded for Francisco Cervelli, getting two years of control in the process. Just like with Martin, no one was really confident in Cervelli. He had good defensive skills, the bat was in question, and the health was a concern. And now, one year later, it looks like we’re going to spend another season wondering if he should be extended, a little over a year after the Pirates received criticism for replacing Martin with him.
I’ve written before that this whole cycle could repeat itself next year. Elias Diaz looks like the replacement for Cervelli. Once again, you’ve got a strong defensive catcher with good hitting skills, but a lack of consistency so far. I guess now, we can add the health concerns to the mix, in order to complete the comparison.
Diaz underwent surgery this week to clean up his right elbow. He’s expected to miss 7-9 weeks, which means he could return in early July, at the latest. That gives him almost two months of work in the minors, plus a likely September call-up again, if he’s doing well. Assuming this clears up his elbow soreness, that should be enough to get him back on track, ready to take over next year.
Let’s be honest. At this point, Francisco Cervelli is not getting extended. That’s not because “Nutting is cheap”. It’s because an extension doesn’t make sense for anyone. The Pirates need to wait and see how their replacement is doing before making a decision. And why would Cervelli accept an extension now, when he could be in line for a huge payday after just 5+ months of the season remaining?
The question becomes whether the Pirates should re-sign Cervelli. That’s a question for the off-season. It’s a question that can only be answered after we see how Diaz recovers from his injury. It’s a question that can be answered after we see what kind of market Cervelli has. It’s a question that needs to wait until we see what kind of ex-Yankees catchers might be available this off-season. Well, maybe not that last part, unless Gary Sanchez becomes available.
I can see Diaz repeating this cycle again. The defense is excellent, with good framing skills, one of the best arms in the minors behind the plate, and great work with pitchers. The offense hasn’t been consistent, but the skills have always shown up to match the type of production that Cervelli is putting up. He looks like a guy who you’d expect to come in and just help out defensively, only to surprise people with his offensive production as well. Just like Cervelli. Just like Martin.
And then we get to go through something similar in a few years when Reese McGuire is ready for the majors.
**Pirates Prospects Looking For Additional Writers in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. We’re looking for additional writers in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Details are in the link, and if you know anyone who would be a good fit, send them our way.
**What the Pirates Pitching Prospects Can Learn From the Jake Arrieta Renaissance. James Santelli takes a look at what led to Jake Arrieta’s emergence to being one of the best pitchers in baseball, and wonders what the current Pirates pitching prospects can learn from this. By the way, I’ve been asked this week if James has returned to cover the team. In a way, yes. As many of you know, James was our beat writer in 2013, and I should say he was an award-winning beat writer, since his article on defensive shifts that year won some awards and got a lot of national attention. Since then, James has had an open invitation to return and write whenever he’s available. That happened in 2014, but he didn’t have time in 2015. He’ll be doing more big features on the site throughout the year. And when we get to the point where we can hire a full-time beat writer, I know where my first call will go.
**Elias Diaz Undergoes Right Elbow Surgery, Out 7-9 Weeks. This is good news, as Diaz avoids a major surgery that would put him out the entire season.
**Pirates Option Jason Rogers to Indianapolis. Late night transaction, which pretty much signals that Jung-ho Kang will return on Friday. With Rogers gone, the only guy to back up first base is David Freese, which was the plan when Kang returned.
**Prospect Watch: Altoona Debut For Waddell, Keller Goes Seven Innings for First Time. Brandon Waddell had a good debut for Altoona, and the Mitch Keller breakout continues with his first seven inning outing.
**Cole Tucker Expects to Finish Rehab and Join West Virginia Next Week. Good news on Cole Tucker, as he’s slated to return to West Virginia next week, almost two months earlier than the earliest timeline when he had labrum surgery last year.
**Morning Report: When Do They Start Limiting Jameson Taillon? John Dreker looks at Taillon’s workload, and wonders when the Pirates will start limiting him early in the year.