Justin Wilson, who is a relief pitcher that played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first three seasons of his career, was traded to the Yankees on November 12 for back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli. The 27-year-old has a 2.99 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, 127 strikeouts and 61 walks in his 138.1 innings pitched (136 games).
In 2012, he made his major league debut on August 20 and would make seven more appearances the rest of the season. He only pitched 4.2 innings in those eight games, but Wilson was able to record seven strikeouts and only one run.
This successful stint at the end of the season led to him having a prominent role in the bullpen in 2013. During his age 25 season, he had a 6-1 record, 15 holds, a dominating 2.08 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 59 strikeouts, a career-low 3.4 walks/9 innings and held lefties to a .501 OPS in 73.2 innings pitched (58 games). His very low WHIP and ERA gave him one of the best seasons in baseball among set-up men.
He was not as successful last season as he finished with a 4.20 ERA after allowing 28 earned runs, but he was able to improve his strikeouts/9 innings from 7.2 to 9.2. He had three wins, three blown saves and 16 holds in 60 innings (70 games). His ERA was higher last season because he allowed 11 more runs in 13.2 fewer innings. Wilson is due for a bounce back season because many players go through a “sophomore slump” after playing well as a rookie.
Last season, Wilson relied on his four-seam fastball (96mph), sinker (96mph), cutter (91mph) and curve (80mph). The rising action on his four-seamer results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers. His sinker also results in more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers.
Wilson is entering his fourth season, and third full season, which means that he still has room for improvement. His main weakness is that he has some control issues, as he has 4.0 walks per nine innings for his career. The strikeout pitcher will give the Yankees a second reliable lefty in the bullpen. Another positive is that he isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2016.
He will combine with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Carpenter, Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren to give the Yankees one of the best bullpens in baseball. Another positive to having Wilson is that he will combine with Betances, Miller and Carpenter to give the bullpen four flame-throwers. He will likely primarily pitch in the seventh inning along with Carpenter.
On Wednesday, 11/12, the Yankees traded back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Justin Wilson, who is a left-handed reliever.
After acquiring Chris Stewart and Russell Martin, Cervelli is now the third catcher that the Pirates have received who previously played for the Yankees since November of 2012. This trade makes a lot of sense for the Yankees because they receive a lefty who can have the role out of the bullpen that Boone Logan had from 2010-2012, Wilson is a lefty who throws in the mid 90s and struck out 61 batters in 60 innings last season for the Pirates.
Wilson, who is 27 and in the prime of his career, had a 4.20 ERA in 70 appearances. He has actually held right-handed hitters to an average of only .206 in his career. Wilson is 9-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 136 appearances during his three seasons. He played college baseball at Fresno State University and was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team in his junior season.
It makes sense that the Yankees traded Francisco Cervelli because they had an excess of back-up catchers with him on the roster. Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy both have experience being the back-up catcher with the Yankees for periods of time, and Cervelli was able to get back more in a trade than Romine or Murphy would have been able to. The Yankees were able to deal from a deep position and get back a potentially reliable lefty reliever, which they lacked since Logan signed with the Colorado Rockies.
Briann McCann’s contract with the Yankees lasts for the next four seasons, so there was no point in having a more expensive back-up catcher in Cervelli. He is second-year arbitration eligible and has a career average of .278 after hitting .301 with two homers last season. Cervelli is already 28, so it makes much more sense to have a cheaper and younger back-up catcher.
Murphy has proven to be more talented than Romine, who is more known for his defense. It is not known which way the Yankees will go, and it is still possible one of them could be included in a trade for a shortstop, but Murphy would make sense to start the year behind McCann. Murphy, who is 23 years old, was drafted in 2009, and made his debut with the Yankees as a September call up in 2013. He hit .154 in 26 at-bats in 2013, but played performed a lot better this past season.
In 2014, many of the 32 games that he appeared in were a result of Cervelli’s hamstring injury, and he played well offensively and defensively. In 81 plate appearances, which does not include his four walks, he hit .284, with four doubles, had one homer and drove in nine runs. Defensively, he caught 201 innings behind the plate, had 10 assists and only one error. He needs to work on throwing out base runners since he only retired two out of 12 runners, but that could improve since he threw out half of them in 2013.
Murphy’s claim to fame in his career so far has been being the catcher during Mariano Rivera’s final appearance with the Yankees. He was on the mound when Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came out to take Rivera out of the game for the last time. This past season on April 26, the catcher formerly known as J.R., hit his first career home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium. He also had his first multi-RBI game as he combined to drive in three runs.
He has a caught stealing percentage of 26 percent in the minors, and the league average in the majors for this past season was 27 percent. This is a good sign for Murphy, and he should be able to improve on his caught stealing percentage from this past season. The Yankees still have to get the David Robertson situation resolved and acquire a shortstop, among other needs, but this trade got rid of a player who wasn’t needed and added one who could have an impact next season.