Bucs get 3 players from Miami for Stallings

December 1st, 2021

The Pirates acquired three players from the Marlins for , one of their most respected clubhouse leaders, on Monday.

The haul includes two of the Marlins’ Top 30 Prospects at the time of the trade in right-hander Kyle Nicolas (No. 16) and outfielder Connor Scott (No. 23), alongside right-hander .

Nicolas led Marlins Minor Leaguers in strikeouts with 136 in 99 innings across High-A and Double-A in 2021, his first pro season after being selected No. 61 overall in the 2020 Draft. The 22-year-old will have one of the most electric fastballs in the Pirates’ organization, with the ability to sit consistently in the mid-90s and hit 100 mph in short spurts, leading to questions about potentially being a leverage bullpen arm. He pairs it with a slider that touches 90 mph and a curveball, and he’s working to get a feel for a changeup.

“We believe, based on our assessments, that he has a chance to start,” GM Ben Cherington said. “There are some things he needs to develop in order to be a starter in the Major Leagues, but we're going to keep him in that role.”

Scott, 22, was the 13th overall selection in the 2018 Draft out of the Florida prep ranks. Though he’s more highly regarded for his defense than his offense, he drew eyes in ‘21, his best season as a professional hitter. The left-handed hitter slashed .276/.333/.446 with 25 doubles, six triples and 10 home runs in 96 games at High-A while swiping 14 bases with a well-above-average run tool.

“He's got some pop, and he was starting to figure some things out this year,” Cherington said. “We're excited about getting to work with him and getting him in our hitting program, and we hope there's some untapped potential.”

Thompson is the only player in the Pirates’ return package with any Major League experience. The 28-year-old had a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings for the Marlins in his rookie season in 2021, with fairly even ERA splits between 14 starts (3.25) and 12 relief appearances (3.18). He struck out a career-high 11 batters on June 26 against the Nationals, though his strikeout rate is under one per inning (7.9 K/9).

“Our group was high on him,” Cherington said, “and it’s an opportunity to add someone we think can be part of our rotation mix in 2022 and, obviously, given where he is in his career, has a chance to be here for a while.”

The return speaks well for its potential, but regardless, trading Stallings is sure to receive mixed reactions from Pirates fans. At 31, the everyday catcher took home his first Gold Glove Award while helping guide a young and in flux pitching staff through the 2021 season. He also was the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee this year for his community work despite the tough conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think Jacob Stallings does a great job of being a leader and a guy that younger guys can come to and ask questions,” said Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman.

In his first season playing more than 100 games, Stallings -- a hitter who has a below-average OPS the past four seasons -- also provided some fun moments with the bat with multiple walk-offs that included a game-winning grand slam off the Mets' Edwin Díaz on July 17.

But despite the qualities Stallings provided to anchor the team last season, the Pirates felt it best to make this move and then supplement the empty spot at catcher on the 40-man with Roberto Pérez, a two-time AL Gold Glove Award winner, whose signing was made official on Wednesday.

“We got approached at the [Trade] Deadline about Stallings, and then more after the season,” Cherington said. “We were approached to the point where we started to look at, could we maintain strength at the position and gain young talent at the same time? We worked through that sort of on parallel fronts and ultimately felt like if we could do both, then it fit with what we're trying to do as an organization.”

Stallings, who spoke with the media on a Marlins Zoom call on Tuesday, said he learned about the trade during a break in the CBA negotiations in Texas on Monday; the catcher served as the Pirates’ MLB Players Association rep.

“It's the only organization I've known,” Stallings said. “I’m going to miss the people, miss my friends and teammates. It was hard to get the call."