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Looking back: Francisco Cervelli for Justin Wilson trade

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Back in November in 2014, the Yankees shipped backup catcher Francisco Cervelli to Pittsburgh for reliever Justin Wilson, opening the door for John Ryan Murphy. How does the deal look now?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

When Francisco Cervelli left New York for Pittsburgh, many fans knew what they were going to miss. Cervelli was pretty well-liked amongst fans, and he was a serviceable backup. When he left, the question came up of who would replace him, John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine? Cashman and company went with Murphy, and they gained a new lefty for the bullpen in the process. Nearly eight months later, how does the deal look?

In Pittsburgh, Cervelli doesn't have much competition for the starting spot. The backup catcher there is another former Yankee, Chris Stewart, whose career-high plate appearances in a season was 340 with the Yanks in 2013 (he hit .211/.293/.272 in that year). This season, Stewart has 98 plate appearances so far, while Cervelli is all the way up at 260. Cervelli is hitting .291/.366/.391 this year, and his average is fourth in the league amongst catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. Cervelli also has the sixth best WAR in the league at 1.9 (of note, Brian McCann is fifth with a 2.2 WAR). Cervelli has been great this season in terms of making contact, ranking second in terms of balls hit softly (12%), trailing only Jason Castro of the Astros (9.5%). He's also second in BABIP with .358, leaving a lot of room for regression. And only halfway through the season, Cervelli has tied his career-high in home runs with four. Cervelli has certainly progressed in his game with more and more playing time, and him being on a great team in Pittsburgh has really helped his play as well. I guess it's true when they say you don't know what you're missing until it's gone.

When Cervelli left, it was now the Murphy-Romine show. After spring training, John Ryan Murphy was chosen as the backup catcher for the pinstripes. Murphy is hitting .253/.293/.333 in 83 plate appearances this season, with a 0.1 WAR. Murphy walks less often (6.0%) and strikes out more often (25.3%) than Cervelli (8.1% and 19.2%, respectively), but Murphy has almost 100 fewer plate appearances than Cervelli. Murphy isn't the worst backup catcher in the world, and he actually has a higher contact percentage than Cervelli (81.1% versus 80.9%), but Cervelli has the better overall numbers.

For the Yankees, Justin Wilson adds a very solid lefty to the bullpen. The Yankees have three great arms in the bullpen: Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller. But if another member needs to be added to make it a fantastic four, it would easily be Wilson. Wilson has pitched 31.2 innings this year, with an ERA of 2.84 (fourth amongst Yankee relievers), and a FIP of 3.10 (third amongst Yankee relievers). Wilson also sports a 0.5 WAR, and trails just Shreve and Betances in the bullpen in terms of least amount of hard-hit-balls (24.7%). One problem with Wilson is his control, as he is last on the Yankees in BB/9 rate of pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched (3.98). Hitters are batting just .168 against Wilson, which is third behind the two-headed monster of Betances and Miller. Wilson has had a substantially better season this year than last (4.20 ERA and 3.62 FIP last season in 60 innings), and he certainly deserves the trust given to him by Girardi.

Wilson and Cervelli have only been with their respective new teams for about half of a season, but both have had pretty good results in a fairly small sample. If you were the GM, would you want Wilson or Cervelli for your squad?