The Pittsburgh Pirates should not trade backstop Jacob Stallings as the value he brings as a strong defender and confidence builder is worth more than most prospect packages he could fetch.
It’s been nearly two years since the Pittsburgh Pirates went into this rebuild. The rebuild has seen them trade-off many of their noteworthy players. Starling Marte, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon were just a few of the notable players the Bucs have traded.
While the rebuild is trending in the right direction, and one of the Pirates’ best prospects acquired in this rebuild recently made his debut, the team has one player that if traded, would bring back a prospect haul, or at least should bring back a prospect haul. That’s backstop Jacob Stallings, a player that should not be traded.
Now, why should the Pittsburgh Pirates hold onto Stallings? Well for one, he isn’t a bad hitter for a catcher. He put up a .246/.335/.369 line with a .312 wOBA, and 95 wRC+. Stallings drew a walk at a healthy 11.2% rate. Overall, that’s slightly below league average numbers. Though compared to the average catcher this year, it’s better than average. The average catcher hit .228/.304/.391 with a .302 wOBA, and 89 wRC+.
But the true value of Stallings lies in his defensive prowess. Stallings was worth +21 defensive runs saved and +8 framing runs. Stallings wasn’t just one of, if not the best defensive catcher in all of baseball, but one of the best defenders in the game, regardless of position. That really helps the Pirates’ pitchers. Overall, he’s been about a 3-fWAR/500 PA catcher every year since 2019.
All of Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, David Bednar, Chris Stratton, Chasen Shreve, and Duane Underwood Jr. have done much better with Stallings behind the dish compared to Michael Perez. When you look at the amount of minor league pitching that is rising through the minor league system, you need a catcher like Stallings.
Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Carmen Mldozinski, and Omar Cruz will likely get a decent look in the major leagues in 2022. You may also see the likes of Tahnaj Thomas and Ricky DeVito make their major league debuts. Then in 2023, the likes of Quinn Priester, Brennan Malone, Michael Burrows, and Santiago Florez will be pushing for a look in the majors. Having a catcher like Stallings around to receive so many young arms, helping them gain confidence in the big leagues, can lead to a very positive impact later on down the line.
Now sure, confidence is intangible. An X-factor that can’t be measured or valued. Most of the time, that is rarely considered because of how baseball works. It’s a team sport. Good spirits and positive vibes help clubhouse culture and attitudes throughout the team, but they do not have a direct or major impact on a player’s production. But I do believe there is one exception to this and that’s the relationship between a catcher and a pitcher. Based on everything we as fans have heard and seen, Stallings gives the Pirates’ pitchers a ton of confidence. I’m sure his framing ability and overall defensive prowess helps their confidence, but he also seems to have a good report with all the Pirates’ pitchers.
Plus if Stallings was traded, who would take his place? Over the course of the last year-plus, they’ve added a ton of decent catching prospects. Last off-season, they acquired Endy Rodriguez in the Joe Musgrove trade. Then in the draft, they picked up Henry Davis and Wyatt Hendrie. At the trade deadline, they got Cater Bins for Tyler Anderson and Abrahan Gutierrez for Braeden Ogle. Sure, a handful of good or even great catching prospects, but none that will be ready as soon as next season. Also, none that will be as good as Stallings is defensively.
So, Pittsburgh Pirates, in the end, Stallings is more valuable than most prospect packages you can acquire him for. Unless Stallings is traded for at least one consensus top 50 prospect and another consensus top 100 prospect, as well as a complementary piece or two, which would be a massive overpay, then it’s not going to be worth it in the long run. Stallings provides value through not just his outstanding defense, but a catcher that many pitchers have confidence when throwing to.