Two Guys Talkin’…Meetings

11-17-21 – By Justin Verno & Joe Boyd – @JV_PITT & Joe_Boyd11 on Twitter

Justin Verno –It’s a week closer to the Winter Meetings and Joe and I are just getting started. When we started this, one part of what we hoped to do was to show different perspectives for these trade packages. As it turns out, we both have a similar approach to them, so that evolved into an honest discussion about the overall value we could expect. It still accomplished our goal, as it showed packages built differently and from different teams. 

But at long last, Joe and I will be talking about a situation where we have differing opinions on, what Ben Cherington should do with a player.

To trade or not to trade…Jacob Stallings?  There are compelling reasons for both sides of this debate, and ultimately I am in the “trade him” camp while Joe stands on the “keep him” sideline. 

Joe Boyd – That’s right.  We’re usually in lockstep on these, but perhaps with Stallings that’s a different story.  I am of the belief that Stallings makes the entire pitching staff that much better.  He’s an excellent defender, framer, and leader.  I doubt that Justin will disagree.  Those traits make him valuable to other clubs, but with a young staff and the ‘catcher of the future’ a few years away, Stallings adds plenty to the Pirates.  By all accounts, Henry Davis is a workaholic and has the passion to improve his craft behind the dish.  But to watch someone that actually improved significantly and to pick his brain, it’d be nice to have Jake around for a few more years.  Despite my hesitancy to move Stallings, we still should go through the exercise. So on to his value.

Stallings has 3 more years of control and ZiPS has updated Stallings’ WAR for 2022 to be 2.3 WAR. Accounting for age, that gives me WAR values of 2.3, 1.6 and 1.1.  If you account for the cost of a win, that puts his true value at $40.1M.  His arbitration estimates over that time are roughly $17.93M which puts his surplus value at $22.48M.  So that’s the value I think Justin and I should aim for when looking to trade him.  That being said, he is 32 and plays a physically demanding position, so I think that $23M in value would be difficult to find.  Nonetheless, I don’t want to move him because I think his value to the pitching staff is too high, so I would need to exceed that value to let him go.  

DESTINATION – HOUSTON ASTROS

JB – In our first rendition of this exercise, Stallings’ value was very similar (due to low ZiPS estimates) and I chose to deal with the Atlanta Braves. The reason then, and now is that they had the league worst WAR by the catcher position.  But there are other clubs that would be looking to upgrade the position, so I wanted to go a different route. And why not look at the AL champions that lost to Atlanta?

Hunter Brown – SP – FV: 50 ($21M) —

According to Longenhagen, “Already armed with plus-plus velocity after coming out of a D-II school in Michigan, Brown has added a plus-plus curve since turning pro and could enjoy a rapid rise with more pitch efficiency.” 

I would argue that Pittsburgh has done quite well to restock the shelves with position players.  They also have some excellent arms that could work out, but pitchers are always so hit/miss.  Adding a player with this good of stuff would serve the club well as they are looking to have an embarrassment of riches on the farm. 

Forrest Whitley – SP – FV: 40+ ($3M) — Back to Longenhagen: “Whitley has No. 1 starter potential when graded on pure stuff, but his inability to consistently take the bump every five days has earned him a well-deserved “injury prone” tag.”

Not long ago, Whitley was a top 5 prospect in baseball.  Understandably, he’s fallen off due to injury (see my note above), but the stuff is still there.  Using the Walking the Earth mindset (you know, not many people with this kind of talen are walking the Earth), you could do well by adding such a high reward wildcard/change-of-scenary piece.  I think that Whitley would probably love to work with someone like Stallings to help out his game, but in this scenario, they are two ships. 

In all honesty, I probably still say no to this deal.  I like the idea of adding two starter caliber players to the team and I think that Whitley helps out in 2022, but I don’t like the talent drain of dealing Stallings.  Who’s going to catch for these two?  

JV – I think Stallings is a guy the Buccos won’t actively shop, but they will take offers and negotiate. And if Ben Cherington gets a package he loves, I think he’ll pull the trigger. As much as I like Stallings, I think he represents the last guy that Cherington has that is tradeable and brings excellent value. (We acknowledge the Bryan Reynolds rumors, but he isn’t going anywhere.) Stallings is so important to the young pitching staff and I could easily be convinced that BC is better off keeping him, but with Davis on the way I think moving Stallings for the right package is the way to go.  Cherington needs an overpay and I think he can get it!

DESTINATION – New York Yankees

JV – There are a few teams I considered here but I think it could come down to the Yankees and Rays battling it out here. Both are teams with high expectations the last few pre-seasons that have fallen short of their play-off hype. Enter a C that can help the pitching staff over that hump. 

Luis Medina-SP- FV:50($21M)

Not too long ago Medina was viewed as MIRP, Fangraphs actually still has him projected to the pen. But the control has come a long way and he has a chance to stay in a rotation as Fangraphs put it, “He’s not big, and the control is messy, but the upside is considerable” 

And when a pitcher has an FV of 70 on 2 pitches that is a point that is hard to argue with. Medina is capable of hitting 101 on his fastball, grading out at an FV of 70. His power CB is the other 70 FV offering. The changeup is currently a 45 on the scale with an FV of 55, if the Bucs feel they can help him develop that changeup and clean up that control(an FV of 40) Medina could be a great addition to the system.

Austin Wells-RF-FV:45($6M)

Adding Wells here would be an overpay, but it’s what I think Cherington should ask for. Wells’ best attribute is his power with an FV of 55 on the scale for raw and game power. Currently a catcher but a move out form the plate could hemp that power play better than the 55 grade. The hit tool, currently 35, needs work but all in all Wells would be a solid second piece. 

CONCLUSION –

JB – When we did this exercise earlier in the summer, I was open to moving Stallings, doing a complete tank and getting the #1 pick in 2022.  My justification was that if you added that pick to the Stallings trade, because losing him derails the season, then the value would be immense.  None of that happened, and after the dust settled we had our catcher of the future in Henry Davis.  I think that he needs to work with Stallings to develop on the defensive side, and I think that that is a match made in heaven.  The value of my trade deal is there and, on paper, is a yes.  But Stallings leadership and other intangibles are too valuable for me on a young team.  Perhaps the Pirates add more veterans to lead this club in 2022, but they already have one in such an integral position that I think the costs far outweigh the beneits. 

JV – Joe, I am still in favor of moving Stallings if the package is right but I honestly had a hard time putting together a package I liked. I settled for the Yankee package above but somehow felt disappointed in it while at the same time noting it’s an overpay the Yankees would likely turn down. Saying Cherington should move Stallings for the right package is so much easier than putting one together. Considering what Jacob does for the young pitchers on the roster I’d say Cherington has a tough job ahead of him, glad I’m not the one making the call here.

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