Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cervelli Follows His Heart with New Deal Agrees to Three-Year, $31 Million Extension

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cervelli Follows His Heart with New Deal Agrees to Three-Year, $31 Million Extension

Article excerpt

The love story between Pittsburgh and Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli lives on.

On Tuesday, the vibrant Venezuelan signed a three-year, $31 million contract extension to keep him with the Pirates through 2019. At an afternoon news conference, fan-favorite Cervelli was seated beside general manager Neal Huntington to announce the agreement.

"This is probably the first time I'm nervous in front of cameras," Cervelli said. "If you go back 14 years, I never thought I'd have an opportunity to be sitting here. This is one of the best days of my life."

Cervelli, 30, would have become a free agent after the season and, as perhaps the premier catcher on the market, likely would have fetched a handsome sum. Now, he will make $9 million in 2017, $10.5 million in 2018 and $11.5 million in 2019, his age 33 season.

"I feel this is my house," Cervelli said. "It's a place I want to be for, I hope, the rest of my career."

Since being traded from the New York Yankees to the Pirates in exchange for left-hander Justin Wilson prior to the 2015 season, Cervelli has a .290 batting average and .374 on-base percentage. He also is an elite defender and has a finger on the pitching staff's pulse.

"You talk about a great story," Huntington said. "This is one that sits in front of you today."

When Cervelli arrived in Pittsburgh, he heard one name over and over: Russell Martin. Most fans weren't thrilled the Pirates were replacing Martin, who had signed a five-year, $82 free-agent deal with Toronto Blue Jays, with a Yankees' backup with durability concerns.

But Cervelli's 4.5 Wins Above Replacement value since the start of the 2015 season is second only to Buster Posey (6.5) among major league catchers. Martin has posted a 2.8 WAR.

"[Cervelli] stepped into big shoes and more than filled them," Huntington said.

Huntington referenced Cervelli having "some health challenges and some opportunity challenges" earlier in his career. A slew of injuries, plus a 50-game suspension in 2013 for using performance- enhancing drugs, kept him from playing a single full season with the Yankees.

Cervelli stayed healthy last season and played 130 games, easily eclipsing his previous high of 94. …

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