The Pittsburgh Pirates Will Face A Tough Decision With Jacob Stallings

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Felipe Vazquez #73 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Jacob Stallings #58 after the final out in a 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on September 22, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Felipe Vazquez #73 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Jacob Stallings #58 after the final out in a 3-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on September 22, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates will be facing a decision with one of their catchers when Spring Training rolls around

Catching depth is one of the most important things for a Major League Baseball team to possess. Just ask the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates who used eight different catchers. When Spring Training 2019 begins, this year’s edition of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club will have a decision to make pertaining to their catching depth.

Right now the team has three catchers on their 40-man roster. These three catchers are tarter Francisco Cervelli, his primary backup Elias Diaz, and Jacob Stallings. While Cervelli and Diaz have spots on the Opening Day roster locked up, the Pirates face a decision with Stallings.

The 29-year-old Stallings has accumulated 72 plate appearances across 24 games with the Pirates the past three seasons. In these 72 PAs Stallings has slashed .288/.333/.333, while playing strong defense for the Bucs.

Stallings has spent the majority of the past two seasons with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. In 130 games with Indy the past two seasons Stallings has slashed .292/.346/.422 with a .343 wOBA and a wRC+ of 115. So, it appears he may be turning a corner after struggling offensively early on in his professional career.

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Furthermore, the team thinks very highly of the defense Stallings plays. On top of having a strong arm behind the plate Stallings is also a strong blockers. The Pirates also believe in his ability to handle a pitching staff.

What to do with Stallings in 2019 may seem obvious. Simply send him to Triple-A to be waiting in the wings if something were to happen to Cervelli or Diaz, right? Well, unfortunately, it is not that simple.

Stallings is out of minor league options. This means the Pirates can not option him to Triple-A to start the season without him having to clear waivers. With how desperate some MLB teams are for catchers, odds are, he would not clear waivers.

If the Pirates were to have Stallings on the Opening Day roster instead of taking the risk of losing him on waivers, they would then have to carry three catchers. This is not the norm in baseball. However, the Pirates are not exactly rolling in strong bench options, so, it’s not as if keeping Stallings would cost a deserving player a bench spot.

Adding to the toughness of the decision for the Pirates is their current catching situation. Right now, the Pirate catching situation is a strong one. Last season Pirate catchers had a MLB best fWAR of 5.3.

However, Cervelli has a past history of concussions. Due to this, the team has incentive to keep Stallings around has insurance. Additionally, Diaz is arguably the team’s best bench bat and by keeping Stallings on the roster Clint Hurdle would be freed up to use Diaz as a pinch hitter.

Another factor is a lack of catching depth in the Pirate system. Losing Stallings would be a big blow to the system’s catching depth, which will also be taken into consideration when a decision about Stallings is made.

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Now, all of this could prove to be a moot point. The team remains engaged in trade talks revolving around Cervelli, and if he is moved then Diaz and Stallings is the MLB club’s catching duo. But, if Cervelli is not traded, then the team will have a decision to make when it comes to Jacob Stallings.

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