The Pirates have announced that they've traded Justin Wilson to the Yankees for catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Cervelli, 28, is the third Yankees catcher the Pirates have acquired in the past two years, having also signed Russell Martin and traded for Chris Stewart. He hit .301/.370/.432 in limited duty last season, but that was with a .408 BABIP; his track record suggests he'll be a decent hitter for a catcher, but not a great one. His defense is reasonably well regarded, and his framing numbers are consistently above average, so he certainly looks like a big-league caliber catcher, though not an outstanding one. He's projected to make $1.1 million next season and will be arbitration eligible for 2016 as well.
In terms of the players exchanged, the Pirates have done fine here. Wilson remains an interesting arm, but even at 27, he isn't well suited to high-leverage work because of his control problems, which have followed him through every professional level. There might be a small chance that he fixes up the walks, continues throwing 95 MPH darts and takes a big step forward. But in general, bullpen arms are replaceable, and Wilson is more replaceable than most.
Also, the Pirates deserve more leeway than usual with catcher acquisitions. They signed Martin and fans screamed. It turned out to be easily the Bucs' best free agent signing in two decades, and Martin helped propel the team to two straight playoff berths. They signed Stewart and fans groused, if they noticed at all. Stewart quietly had a strong year as Martin's backup. They drafted Tony Sanchez and fans yelled that he was an overdraft. Sanchez ... well, you can't win them all, which is why the Pirates needed a catcher in the first place. But there's a lot going on with catchers that you can't gauge by looking at a player's Baseball Reference page, and when the Pirates acquire yet another catcher with a reputation as a good framer, they've earned some benefit of the doubt.
What's important about this deal is what it might mean. The Pirates say they will continue to try to sign Martin, although Cervelli gives them another option. Is there any chance they make an offer Martin accepts, and they end up trading or non-tendering Cervelli or Stewart? If Cervelli and Stewart are the Pirates' catchers next season, how will time be divided between them? And what happens now with the bullpen?
In other words, there's nothing wrong with trading Cervelli for Wilson. In isolation, I think it's pretty clearly a smart move that makes the Pirates better. The quality of the Bucs' offseason, however. will be determined by how they follow up. Martin remains a free agent and would still be a big upgrade, and now they may need to pursue lefty relief as well, with Tony Watson and maybe Bobby LaFromboise their only credible lefty relievers.