Making the case to keep Jacob Stallings
While you could use the argument that since Stallings has a ton of control remaining, it could also be used in an opposing argument to keep him around. Stallings being controlled through 2024 is right in line with the Pirates’ window of competition opening. Just next year alone, they should see massive improvements, especially to the pitching staff.
By the end of 2022, we could see the likes of Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Mason Martin, and Oneil Cruz in regular roles. Other young promising players like Nick Gonzales, Carmen Mlodzinski, Tahnaj Thomas, and Liover Peguero will at least get a cup of coffee in the majors. They’ll join Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, J.T. Brubaker, David Bednar, and Colin Moran (if he isn’t traded) to make a very solid core. Then by 2023, we should at least see the arrival of Quinn Priester, Brennan Malone, Maikol Escotto, Hudson Head, Endy Rodriguez, and Michael Burrows. This also isn’t accounting for any prospects that we could see in 2022-2023 that the Pirates may acquire in the draft and through trades.
The large influx of prospects coincides right with Jacob Stallings. Plus Stallings provides a good veteran presence behind the dish. Catchers impact pitchers more than any other position on the diamond. Catcher is essentially the only position where intangibles can impact the game as a whole. If a pitcher doesn’t feel confident throwing to a catcher who they’re not comfortable with, then it could lead to underperformance.
The Pirates have a large number of young arms coming up through the system. I already mentioned the likes of Contreras, Yajure, Thomas, Priester, Malone, Mlodzinski, and Burrows, but there are a whole lot more that I haven’t mentioned. This is the case for guys in the upper minors such as Travis MacGregor, Jeffrey Passantino, Max Kranick, Omar Cruz, and arms in the lower minors like Logan Hofmann, Santiago Florez, J.C. Flowers, and Eddy Yean. That also isn’t factoring in any young arms that may come up into the franchise the next 1-3 seasons the Pirates could get in the draft, trades, or other off-season moves like the Rule 5 draft.
We’ve seen this year that many Pirates pitchers are better when Stallings is catching. JT Brubaker, Wil Crowe, Richard Rodriguez, Chris Stratton, Clay Holmes, David Bednar, Chasen Shreve, and Duane Underwood Jr. have lower ERA’s with Stallings compared to Michael Perez. Only Kyle Crick, Sam Howard, Tyler Anderson, and Chad Kuhl have lower ERA’s when the opposite is true.
One last question to pose is what, if any team, can and will be willing to meet that high asking price. While he does average just over 3 fWAR per 500 plate appearances, he also isn’t young. Currently, the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros are the two most catcher-needy teams. While the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and San Diego Padres aren’t as desperate for catching as the Jays or ‘Stros, they may at least explore the possibility of Stallings.