Two Guys Talking Stallings Trade

11-30-21 – By Justin Verno & Joe Boyd – @JV_PITT & Joe_Boyd11 on Twitter

Joe Boyd – Whew, okay.  First things first.. We’ve done articles on Stallings a few times already.  So, if you’re new here, 1) Welcome! And 2) check out our Stallings piece from a few weeks ago and from a few months ago.  

If you go back and check those out, you’ll see that I flip-flopped.  In June, I was all for blowing this thing up and trading Stallings.  But after the season ended and we looked to 2022, I was hoping to keep the gold glover w/ control around to mentor Henry Davis and to benefit the pitching staff with his defensive prowess and leadership.  Justin disagreed.  Let’s see how he feels about this return!

The return:  

RHP Zach Thompson — $10.68M SV

Thompson was drafted by the the White Sox in the 5th round of the 2014 draft.  He was released in 2020 and signed a minor league deal with the Marlins.  Last season, he pitched quite well.  He doesn’t have electric stuff for a behemoth (6’7 230lbs), but he had decent year in Miami, posting 1.3 WAR.  He is, however, 28 years old but he still has 6 full years of control.  

For the purposes of our articles, we utilize ZiPS/STEAMER whenever possible.  He’s projected 0.4 WAR next year and if you extrapolate that and include an age factor, I come up with  1.6 WAR over the course of his controllable years in Pittsburgh.  We have to account for his salary, so that’s where the $10.68 Surplus Value comes in.  Thompson produced 1.3 WAR last year, which is almost what we are estimating he will accrue over the next 6 seasons, so a safe bet would be to bump that estimate.  I think a realistic answer would be to move that to 0.8 WAR which bumps our Surplus Value for Thompson to $20.72M.  If this is where Cherington evaluated Thompson to be at, then the Pirates ‘win’ the trade. 

OF Connor Scott — 40+ FV ($4M) — ETA: 2022

Longenhagen’s report on Scott: “Scott shares some frame and swing components with fellow Plant High School alum Kyle Tucker. He has a similar low-ball proclivity and has shown glimpses of all-fields power but doesn’t have quite as good of feel for the barrel toward the top of the strike zone. Well, that flaw may have been more thoroughly exposed in the fall and during 2021 spring training.

Conversely, Scott has responded to two pretty bold promotions. The first was during his first pro summer, when Miami promoted him and other recent prep draftees to Low-A for the end of the season. Scott was bad there at the end of 2018, but made adjustments and posted a league-average statline as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League the following year, which is impressive. He kept his head above water at Hi-A late in 2019, too, though he did swing and miss much more there. How he handles topside velo is going to be huge because that pitch is so common in the big leagues now. Scott has a chance to be a table-setting center fielder if he can get on top of those letter-high heaters.”

So Scott, a former first round selection, appears to be a light hitting, defensive-first Center Fielder that is more of an old-school leadoff hitter.

RHP Kyle Nicolas — 40+ FV ($3M) — ETA: 2024

From Longenhagen: “​​The power-armed Nicolas took a big step forward on the 2019 Cape, sitting in the mid-90s, hitting 99, and flashing a plus, mid-80s slider. The effort in his delivery and the fact that Nicolas spent most of his sophomore year and summer on the Cape in the bullpen fueled pretty consistent relief projection, but I think Nicolas is an average athlete with a sturdy, workhorse build, and was pitching with an arm action that looks relatively easy to clean up. The 2020 version of Nicolas, when he made four starts before the pandemic ended the college season, indeed looks like a reliever but his arm action’s length seems to lead to his scattershot fastball. I don’t expect him to ever have pinpoint command, but with the way his heater works, I don’t think he needs to. What is harder to identify is his ultimate repertoire outlook. Nicolas threw about 85% fastballs in 2020. His slider, which is really hard and has back foot utility against lefties, could be plus but he’ll need a third pitch to start. I think the fastball and slider have really strong playability and that Nicolas could end up in a leveraged relief role just through a more consistent release.”  

Unsurprisingly, a power arm from the Cape league.  He was ranked as the #20 prospect in the Miami system at the mid-season reevaluation on Fangraphs. 

As our Friend @AlexJStumpf tweeted: 

If you add up that value, you’re pretty far south of the SV for Stallings.  But if Thompson’s projections correct, it looks like a win in the Surplus Value method.  But is the big piece really a player that was released by the White Sox and could’ve been had for nothing? 

JV — This is where the art and science of evaluating a trade, using this method anyway, provides a lesson. As a fan we want to see Cherington “win” a trade and we’d like to see him win as many as possible. The range of monetary value exchanged here is approximately 18-28 million. But we still need to look for context, Joe. Does this return show the upside and helium we are used to seeing? Or hope to see? I can’t get there. Thompson is more of a floor player, likely the best value he could have gotten from the major league level, I’ll give him that. This is why we lean to deals that are built stocking the minors. 

I do like Kyle Nicolas, specifically. The fastball/slider combo looks legit and if he develops that curveball and changeup the kid has a shot at staying in the rotation.  He had better results in AA then A+ showing he was able to apply what they implemented in A+, that’s a great sign and something I imagine that Cheringon’s scouts talked about. But he simply is not enough to carry the trade. 

Final Thoughts 

JB — I like writing these articles because I get to say what I would/would not accept in a trade for a Pirates player.  We created packages to trade Stallings in the past, I would’ve accepted a deal from the Braves for Michael Harris + other prospects.  I came up with a deal with the Astros that would be hard to pass up (but I ultimately would have preferred to keep Stallings), and Justin has come up with a couple good ones with the Yankees.  I can say that I would not have made this deal with the Marlins.  The Pirates were in no way obligated to move Stallings, so only a ‘godfather’ deal would work for me, and this one is not it.  The Pirates are left with a bare cupboard at the catcher position and all we have to show for it is a reclamation project and a few AAAA prospects.  That might be a bit harsh, but I’m just not satisfied that this was an ‘obvious’ move.  

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything, and I had no belief that the 2022 Pirates were going to compete.  But I was hoping that they would start to turn a corner and push towards getting to a position of being competitive in the 2023-2024 range.  I think that a leader like Jacob Stallings makes your pitchers and your young catchers better.  Pittsburgh got worse today. 

JV – Before I get too lost in my closing thoughts I’d like to give Joe a shoutout here, he did the heavy lifting before I even got home from work today and it’s solid stuff!

Joe, I’ll go one further and say I’m disappointed in the trade even surprised BC pulled the trigger. Hey, even with hindsight I was still on board with moving Stallings, But the return needed to outweigh the benefits of what Stallings would have brought to the table for this pitching staff over the next 1-2 years. Joe, we mentioned that in both pieces that we wrote on Stallings and it was just as true today as it was in July. Maybe we’re wrong here, maybe we can’t see the forest from the trees. Perhaps both Nicolas and Scott go off and we’re reading this in two years talking about what fools we were. But today this doesn’t taste good at all. 

We aren’t here to be cheerleaders for Mr. Cherington, we are here to take an objective look at these values, perhaps even a cold approach, and evaluate possible trades and the actual returns from a monetary approach and today I feel like the cashier shorted me on my change and the manager just isn’t listening. 

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