Former Yankees backstop Francisco Cervelli took to Instagram yesterday to formally announce his retirement from baseball after an admirable 13-year career that was unfortunately shortened by injuries.
Cervelli wore 4 different uniforms during his time in the big leagues, most notably with the New York Yankees (2008-2014) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (2015-2019). He also spent time at the end of his career with the Atlanta Braves (2019) and the Miami Marlins (2020).
From His Instagram Post:
Today, I want to share the difficult decision I’ve made to end my career as a professional baseball player. I feel it’s important to share this with you, the fans, because your support throughout my 18-year long career has meant so much – you helped make my journey possible. During my career, I encountered injuries and made some bad decisions. But, I also learned so much. This game has brought me endless joy and happiness. I’ve received incredible support by so many, including countless teammates – my brothers in baseball – that I will carry in my heart forever. I also hold great pride in knowing that I strived to constantly make the impossible possible. My advice? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. If I did it, you can do it too. Today, I retire happy and fully satisfied, because I gave my heart and soul to this wonderful game. I am retiring because the time has come to put my health before my career. For a long time, I put baseball first, through countless concussions and injuries, because this game was my life; my whole world. But it’s clear to me now that my future holds so much more. For the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff. It’s time. My journey in this game would be nothing without the exceptional people that have supported me along the way, personally and professionally. I thank God and my family for their unconditional love and support. To the Yankees, Pirates, Braves, Marlins, the MLB teams that gave a young kid from Venezuela a chance at this game, I am eternally grateful. To my coaches and teammates (too many to name) and my agent, thank you for pushing me to be the best ballplayer I could be. Lastly, to the fans… the Cisco Kid is nothing without you. Thank you for everything. I will never forget all that this game has taught me. I wouldn’t trade the blood, sweat and tears for anything in the world. This game will always be my greatest love, because… well, THAT’S AMORE!
A post shared by Francisco Cervelli (@fran_cervelli) on Oct 3, 2020 at 2:17pm PDT
How was Cervelli as a Yankee?
Cervelli was part of the Yankees organization for 12 years after he was signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in 2003. He had very little catching experience when signed, but the Yankees looked to transform the middle infielder into a catcher during his time in the minor leagues. He was also a switch-hitter but the Yankees opted for him to mainly swing right-handed which turned to be a good move.
It took a few years for him to hit his stride, having great 2006 and 2007 campaigns with the Staten Island Yankees (where he hit .309) and Tampa Yankees (where he hit .279 with a .387 OBP) that helped elevate him to being the 23rd best prospect in the MLB on Baseball America’s 2008 preseason list. That same season he would make his MLB debut on September 18th, coming in as a defense catching replacement for Jose Molina.
In his 7-Year MLB stint with the New York Yankees from 2008-2014, Cervelli was the main back-up catcher behind Jorge Posada (2009) and Russell Martin (2011-2012). Unfortunately, only 250 games came on the field over these years because of injuries, ending up on the then DL, 6 times. But, this did come with being a part of the 2009 World Series winning New York Yankees.
While donning the Yankee pinstripes and away grays over those years, Cervelli hit to a triple-slash of .278/.348/.381 (.729 OPS) with a 97 OPS+ alongside 10 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, and a K:BB rate of 135:64 (2.11:1), over the 250 games. This came out to be 4.3 bWAR, which was pretty good for a back-up catcher who was getting very infrequent playing time.
His best years came after his Yankee career when he was signed to be the starting catcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2015-2018. His best seasons were 2015 and 2018 where he had a 3.4 and 3.1 bWAR respectively while playing 130 and 104 games.
Cervelli was a great embodiment of a player who persevered in the MLB despite being dealt a bad hand with his injury history. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t find a future career also with baseball, as many catcher do, especially given how he truly got to experience all facets of the game from the highest of highs (2009) and the lowest of lows (the PED/Biogenesis scandal).