The Pittsburgh Pirates have swung a big trade as catcher Jacob Stallings has been dealt to the Miami Marlins, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. In return, the Pirates will receive right-handed pitchers Zach Thompson and Kyle Nicolas and outfielder Connor Scott, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Both clubs have confirmed the deal.
2021 marked Stallings’ sixth year with the Pirates, a year in which he won the National League Gold Glove behind the dish. Stallings was tied for the most defensive runs saved in all of baseball with 21 defensive runs saved. Stallings has emerged as one of the top defenders in all of baseball and is capable with the bat. Stallings hit .246 with a .704 OPS in 2021 and has a career slash of .254/.331/.370.
Stallings was selected by the Pirates in the seventh round of the 2012 draft out of the University of North Carolina. Stallings overcame the odds to become the Pirates starting catcher after twice being removed from the roster. He became a fan favorite for his ability to produce in clutch situations as well as for his “speed” that earned him the nickname “The Cheetah.”
It will be a big loss for the Pirates as the value Stallings had behind the plate handling such a young staff goes without saying. Stallings earned the trust of the players and coaches and became a leader in the clubhouse for the Bucs.
General manager Ben Cherington decided it was time to move the soon-to-be 32-year-old and try to maximize his return. Of the three players coming back to Pittsburgh, Thompson is the only one who has reached the Major Leagues. He made his debut in 2021 and posted a 3.24 ERA/3.69 FIP in 26 appearances (14 starts).
Thompson is big – standing 6-foot-7 and has a four pitch mix – fastball, cutter, curveball changeup. He will likely battle for a rotation spot and could also crack the Opening Day Roster as a reliever.
Nicolas rates as the Marlins’ 16th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was taken with the 61st pick in the 2020 draft and made his pro debut this year. Between High-A and Double-A, Nicolas posted a 4.18 ERA with 136 strikeouts and 49 walks in 99 innings.
The 6-foot-4 Nicolas has two plus-offerings in a a fastball that touches 100 mph and a sharp slider. He also offers a curveball and a changeup but his command needs improvement, but is capable of missing bats as evident by his strikeout totals.
Scott checks in at No. 23 on the Marlins top prospect list. The former first-round pick had a breakout season in 2021, batting .276 with a .779 OPS (112 wRC+) with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Scott is still fairly raw but has intriguing tools across the board. Scott has very good speed and is a plus-defender and can man all three outfield spots. His bat remains the biggest question mark though he has power potential and could eventually become a 20/20 player.
The Pirates’ front office must believe that Scott’s emergence in 2021 was no fluke and that it is a sign of things to come. In total, the Pirates are getting three upside players at the cost of their starting backstop.
The Pirates will now be in the market for two catchers as their 40-man roster consists of zero backstops. While the free agent market is thin on catchers, there are a couple players with similar profiles to Stallings as defensive-first backstops. Yank Gomes and Roberto Perez are two names that could fit the bill. The Pirates could also explore the trade market and there are a couple catchers available in the Rule 5 Draft.