Two Guys Talking Trades – With Joe Boyd and Justin Verno 6-7-21 Jacob Stallings

Justn Verno – Okay, so we’ve already put trade values out there for Adam Frazier and Rich Rodrigeuz, who are two trade candidates I think most Pirates fans expect to see traded before 4 PM on July 30th. (It’s going to be odd not having the deadline on July 31st.) In this edition we will be taking a look at C Jacob Stallings.

Before we do that, let’s take a look at why moving Stallings now makes sense, as there are a lot of people that think Cherington shouldn’t move Stallings at all. In fact, many think the Buccos should consider extending him. Stallings is a fan favorite, a good story, a surprisingly good catcher considering his path to the majors, and an argument can certainly be made to keep him, but for now let’s concentrate on why moving him could be the best move.

1-The first thing that jumps out is despite his control, Stallings is 31 years old. While this shouldn’t be an impediment to a contender, it’s not ideal for a team that likely won’t be a contender until Stallings is 34. 

2-At the time of writing this, Stallings had a WAR of 1.2, a phenomenal number that has already covered ZIPs projection, basically, of 1.3. This would put him over a WAR of 3 (even as high as 3.6), a number that would put him in near elite company. I’m not saying I expect Stallings to keep that pace up, but even if he paces another 1.2 the rest of the year, he’d finish with a 2.4 WAR, a solid number that would carry a nice surplus. And looking at his career, Stallings having a WAR of 1.2 in 39 games isn’t all that shocking.  Ignoring the 24 games spanning 2016-18 where he accumulated an even 0.0 WAR, Stallings has been nothing short of terrific since his role has been expanded.

2019 71 games  WAR 1.3

2020 42 games WAR 1.0

The interesting thing here is his 2021 ZIPs projections are for a WAR of 1.3 while catching 95 games, so he is way ahead of his projections. With 3 years of control left, dealing Stallings now would optimize his return and should make for an interesting name to watch until the deadline. 

3-The Pirates system is actually deep, but all in all Ben Cherington needs to add as much talent to the system as he can. 

I do need to point out that Cherington should only move Stallings if the deal is right–no discounts.  

Joe Boyd – Justin lays out the reasons that it would behoove Cherington to look at moving Stallings, so let’s look at what his value would look like.  As with RichRod, I think it is important to create a value range for these players that have many controllable years remaining.  For Stallings, he still has three (3) more arbitration years, so his variance is even higher than RichRod.  Add to that fact that he is also 31 but playing the most physically taxing position.  So I’m going to attack this projection from two sides, the first is if he degrades like ZiPS believes he will and a slower decline. 

First, we need to estimate the remainder of the year, and Stallings is off to such a hot start, 1.1 WAR, that he should blow past his ZiPS projection of 1.5 WAR.   We all know that Stallings is a wonderful defender, but this year it has been his offense that has pushed up his WAR, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s a fluke.  He’s walking more, striking out less, and his BABIP is still below league average (Stallings: .280 vs League Avg of .300).  So there might even be some bad luck in there!  All that to say, I don’t think I want to regress his production that much for this season.  I could see a season in the 2.3-3.0 WAR range.  

We’ll tack on the ZiPS projections for this lower bound of the range, and I’ll just say that they feel that Stallings will fall off of a cliff.  They have him at 0.7 WAR in 2022, 0.7 WAR in 2023, and 0.5 WAR (estimated utilizing an age factor) in 2024.  The final calculation will include his estimated arbitration rates, and for this portion of the range, we’ll use his salary for 2021 of $1.3M, $2.5M in 2022, $3.7M in 2023, and $5M in 2024.  That’s a total salary of $12.5M.

Now for the upper bound of the range, we’ll leave the 2021 projection untouched, but I would expect a more gradual decline in Stallings’ performance, buoyed by his defensive prowess.  So even if the offense does regress, I would not expect such a steep decline.  Assuming health and father time, a decline to 1.4 WAR in 2022, 1.1 WAR in 2023, and 0.8 WAR in 2024 seems pretty reasonable for Stallings.  That production, however, produces higher arbitration rates, so his total salary will jump to about $16.8M.  So the resulting upper bound of Stallings value range is as follows:

So I have a value range for the Pirates’ 31-year-old team leader between $18.1M and $26.4M.  Does that work for you, Justin? 

JV- Absolutely. And Cherington needs to get that return to make it worthwhile. Am I saying all $26 million? I lean to no on that, but he needs to be in that $18-$26M range for sure. This is a guy that Cherington needs to be aggressive with or keep.

C is always a need at the deadline, this year being no exception. I can see eight teams, maybe one or two more, looking to add a C.

JB – Trade Partner:  Atlanta Braves

Now, I think that Justin has been treading lightly, and rightfully so, around trading Stallings.  I agree that he is an anchor on this team, and that his leadership is valuable to a young pitching staff.  But he is also 31, he won’t be here for the next contention window, and he’s extremely valuable as a trade asset.  No one at the club will admit that tanking is the goal but as a fan, I must say, I think it is the correct choice for one more season.  The 2021 draft looked as though it had a superstar ready to be drafted 1.1 in Kumar Rocker.  But over time, he has fallen back to the pack and now there does not appear to be a consensus option for the Pirates.  Could it still be Rocker? Maybe, or Leiter or Lawlar or Davis?  But next year, there is a clear #1 prospect.  Elijah Green received a massive comp by Fangraphs for his elite raw power, elite speed, and cannon for an arm:  Bo Jackson.  So for one more year, I am okay with a race to the bottom. For a team that lacks that star prospect, I would love for the Pirates to have the opportunity to nab Green. And I think trading Stallings away provides a better opportunity for this team to finish at 1.1 in the 2022 draft order.  *Steps off of soapbox* Now let’s look at a recent trade that provides an interesting framework for a Stallings deal.

At the 2020 deadline, the Mariners sent C Austin Nola, RHP Dan Altavilla, and RHP Austin Adams to San Diego in exchange for OF Taylor Trammel (50 FV), 3B Ty France, RHP Andres Munos (40+FV), and C Luis Torrens. If you’re interested in a detailed summary of the trade, I implore you to check out this article from FanGraphs. Based on my understanding of France, I believe he too is a 40+ prospect, and I’m going to give Torrens a $0 value just because I do not know enough about him, and he’s not the reason for this point I’m trying to make. So as a rough estimate, this prospect package is worth about $35M for a 30-year-old late-blooming catcher (sound familiar?) and two relievers. I would have loved this package for Pittsburgh, but there is one caveat. Taylor Trammel’s star appears to have some scuffs on it.

In 2019, Trammel was a 55 FV prospect which is Top 25 in the game, potentially a perennial all-star, but in 2020 he dropped to a 50 FV, and after the trade he is now considered a 45 FV. That’s a drop in value of $40M. That trade package now? Well it’s not $35M, but rather $14M. So for a Stallings trade, it’s less about current value for me and more so finding a headliner piece that is on the ascent.  

Now for a trading partner, I was between the Cleveland Baseball Club and Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is currently 3.5 games back in the East and 3.5 back in the Wild Card standings. Based on the talent that is on that roster, I would assume that this is unacceptable for their front office. Atlanta has plenty of prospects at the catcher position, but now is not the time to bring them along slowly. No, a move for a savvy veteran that could get the most out of their pitching staff and provide some surprising pop to the lineup would be extremely advantageous for them to get back in the pennant race. 

The trade package: 

Michael Harris II — CF — ETA: 2024 — 45+ FV ($8M)

Now you may be saying something like, “Joe, this guy isn’t even valued as a 50FV at the time of this deal.. Why would the Pirates pull the trigger on this trade when the total value is so below Stallings current estimates?”  Well, your humble author has a method to his madness.  Trammel was a 55FV at one point because of his overall skillset, but he dropped to a 45FV due to the fact that his bat just did not seem to develop.  Can it still? Sure, but it is looking less and less likely.  Enter, Michael Harris.  He’s just 20 years old, and again, I’m building a farm that is bursting with talent at the lower levels in expectation that some/most hit the major league club at the same time (2024/2025).  

All Harris has done since being drafted is mash the baseball.  FG’s scouting report has him rated as above average for all of his tools (except fielding), and he has hit (.349/.403/.514) in the Gulf Coast League and they (FanGraphs) note that the trackman data backs up the switch hitter’s statistics.  His exit velos are top 10 for his age group and that puts him in Liover Peguero territory.  Sign me up for two Pegueros in the system!  Harris is young, but if he continues to mash the ball like this, he could be a 50FV by the end of the year, and even have a chance to develop into a 55FV or more. If he does that, this trade could be franchise-altering.

Kyle Muller — LHP — ETA: 2021 — 45 FV ($4M)

Muller is a towering lefty (6’7 250 Lbs) with stuff that is on the rise. From Longenhagen, “this is a different type of athlete who has one of the sport’s most impressive bodies, and he seems likely to overwhelm hitters with sheer stuff and physicality.”  At worst, Muller could be a physically-imposing lefty in the bullpen, but I am sure they would like to give him a shot to start.  If that fails, his stuff is so “nasty” that it would play in high leverage situations.

Bryce Ball — 1B — ETA: 2022 — 40+ FV ($2M)

The final piece is an opportunity to acquire power.  The Pirates are not going to be in a position to acquire power on the free market, so here they try to nab some in the Stallings deal.  Ball has hit everywhere he’s been, but he’s a bit older for a lower level farm hand.  Perhaps the Pirates could give him a push to see how he responds.  Fangraphs notes that he has a decent hit tool for having so much power.  Not a good runner or fielder, he’ll profile at 1B, so he will push Mason Martin to be the first baseman of the future. 

I want to close with my final point about a Stallings trade.  As I mentioned above, moving on from Stallings might sting now, but could be the key to the rebuild for the Pirates.  Rather than looking at the value I have provided here, consider another way.  The deal catapults the team into serious contention for the 1.1 overall selection in the 2022 draft to get the premier draft prospect of the decade, while also filling the farm with a (very) high upside CF, a physically imposing lefty, and a power bat.  If Harris progresses, even to just a 50FV, the trade could, in reality, be framed like this:

Michael Harris — 50  FV ($28M)

Elijah Green    — 50  FV ($28M)

Kyle Muller      — 45  FV ($8M)

Bryce Ball       — 40+FV ($4M)

I’m trying to be conservative here because Green has the opportunity to be a 60+ FV, but even at these values, the return would be $68M for a Stallings trade.  Stallings has been awesome,  a leader, a fan favorite, and now.. He can be the piece that brings the Pirates the talent necessary to actually push for a pennant. 

JV-I love that you mention Peguero here. When the Starling Marte deal was done, Pegs was a 45+ on Fangraphs. About a week later, they released their pre-season Top Prospect list and Peguero made his debut as a 50 FV player, just a hair outside the Top100. My point? Soon after the Bucs complete some of these trades, Fangraphs and others will be releasing their mid-season updates. So, the trade could be significantly different. Just days after a trade, be patient.   With Harris slashing 360/376/494, a bump to a 50 FV is a good bet. And I think that’s the path we see here for any Stallings deal, more “helium” prospects like Liover Peguero. 

I had the Braves and the Indians on my short list as well, along with the Yankees, the Padres, Marlins and so on. There are a lot of teams that could be looking to add Stallings. As I looked at possible trade partners, I noticed an interesting development: the AL East has four teams in the chase, and three of them could use an upgrade at catcher. After flirting with getting my beloved Alex Manoah from the Jays, or nabbing Gilberto Jimenez from the team that gave Cherington his first GM job, I settled on the Yankees being able to sweeten the pot and grab Stallings. The Yankees have spent a considerable amount chasing their next ring and adding Stallings to help expand the zone for Cole and company? Priceless. And I know I’ve used the Yankees before, but the fit here was simply too much to pass up, especially in a possible bidding war.

Trade partner-New York Yankees

Yoendrys Gomez –SP– ETA 2022 FV 45+($6M)

Really, we could have gone with either of the Gomez’s here, but I went C last time. Yoendrys is on Fangraphs “Picks to Click” list, and for good reason. His FB, an FV of 60, sits 93-96 and can hit 98 after getting a velo bump this off season. This is notable because Yoendrys already has a good feel for varying his movement and velocity, and he has kept his ability to spot up the FB even with the added MPH. That velo has him attacking up in the zone now. The curveball is the second best offering, having an FV of 55, giving Gomez two possible plus pitches. A 50 FV change up is his last offering, giving three good pitches. Fangraphs does point out that he needs to hide the ball better vs LHH. One last thing on Yoendrys,  he is a candidate to add bulk and perhaps a little more velo. 

Austin Wells –RF– ETA– 2023 FV 45(6M) 

Despite catching in college, Austin will matriculate to the OF where the bat could play better without all the squatting, to take the pressure off his arm. He should move through the ranks pretty quickly with a hit tool FV of 55. The power needs to develop here. It grades out a FV of 55 in both raw and game power. The reason I think Cherington could eye Wells? He slashed a solid .308/.389/.526 at Cape Cod leading up to the draft, and the Cape loomed large in the Buccos 2020 draft room. 

Ryder Green –RF–ETA 2023 FV 40(2M)

You want power? How does a 70 FV grade for raw power sound to you? And his game power is an FV 55. The kid can run (FV 50), field (FV 50), and throw where he grades out at an FV of 60 right now. So what gives?  Why isn’t he a top prospect? His hit tool really needs to improve: it sits at 30 with an FV of 40. He needs to cut down on the K’s. He was also a victim of the pandemic, being one of the kids who wasn’t invited to the alternative sites. But here’s the interesting part–he was one of the names on Fangraphs “Picks to Click” of 2020 list. Not being able to play means he’s back to square one. This is a unicorn player, as fangraphs calls him, if the hit tool develops and possibly my favorite piece in this package. 

 I get that people love Stallings, but he is likely the Bucs biggest viable trade chip (not named Bryan Reynolds, and I doubt they listen to him) and if you get this kind of package for him, I think you have to do it. Yoendrys and Green are helium guys, and with a real good year could both get bumps.

Gomez FV 50(21M)

Green FV 45+(6M)

That’d be a great boost to the system!

And if that STILL doesn’t sound good to you, would you give up Brennan Malone, Hudson Head and Nick Garcia up for a Jacob Stallings?  That’s really what I’ve built here. 

Brennan Malone FV 45+

Hudson Head FV 45

Nick Garcia FV 40

I think most Bucco fans would hate to give that package up for a Jacob Stallings, and oddly if those names WERE the package for Stallings, most fans would be happy because they recognise those names and they know about them which breeds comfort. 

JB – I love that package for Stallings and enjoy the idea of 7 for Yankee prospects in the Pirates system!  Noting the ETAs, we have 3 of the 6 players in these hypothetical deals that are projected to arrive in 2023 or later.  This will give the Pirates plenty of time to develop these players and have them ready to go when the team is ready to compete again.  Will they all hit?  Assuredly not, but that is why you keep trying to acquire arms, athletes, and players that can play up the middle. 

As I mentioned above, Stallings provides an opportunity to be that keystone piece to the rebuild.  If he can return a package similar to what Seattle received for Nola, and the team’s current performance suffers enough to select Elijah Green in 2022, he may have set the team up for sustained success.  And while Pittsburgh is on the sidelines again for the 2021 playoffs, we’ll have our guy Stallings to root for on his new team. 

So Justin, where should we go from here?  Do you want to knock out a few of the rentals?  Anderson/Cahill? 

JV-You read my mind Joe! A 2-fer would hit the spot!

3 thoughts on “Two Guys Talking Trades – With Joe Boyd and Justin Verno 6-7-21 Jacob Stallings

  1. As long as they have a field general/pitcher whisperer (doesn’t need to be a player, maybe it’s the pitching and bullpen coaches), I’m definitely on board with this. I don’t know to what extent such a sage exists for that real-time development, and I’m not confident in Perez’s handling of young pitchers. Here’s hoping–even if whichever catcher they replace Stallings with is a black hole on offense–the catcher that takes his place is solid at managing the pitchers’ development. I don’t care whether that’s Susac, Delay, Hudson, or a waiver claim, as long as it happens.

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