Why Stallings is the right fit for the Rockies

January 10th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Jacob Stallings didn’t have to go far to find his next team after spending six seasons with the Pirates and two with the Marlins. 

“The first time I met with the Rockies was at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, oddly enough,” said the veteran catcher.

The “oddly enough” part stems from the fact that Stallings lives in Nashville. He drove a few miles to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center last month, where he met with Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt, assistant general manager Zack Rosenthal and manager Bud Black for the first time. 

Also present was a familiar face from Stallings’ earliest years as a professional baseball player.

“Clint Hurdle was the manager in Pittsburgh when I was drafted,” Stallings said. “During the time when I was coming up through the Minor Leagues, he was the big league manager. And then when I debuted in 2016, he was the manager. … It’s funny, we’ve kind of gotten to know each other more and our relationship has gotten closer since he left [the Pirates in ’19].”

Hurdle, who led the Rockies to the 2007 World Series as manager and is now serving as a special assistant to the general manager, is a big fan of Stallings, and he can attest to what the 34-year-old backstop brings to Colorado

Stallings has primarily been known for his defense, though he has had stretches during his career when he’s produced at a near-league-average level the plate. From 2019-21, his final three seasons with the Bucs, he hit .251/.331/.374.

A Gold Glove Award winner in 2021, Stallings set an AL/NL record with 256 consecutive games without a passed ball, breaking a mark held by Hall of Famer Johnny Bench (224 straight). During his career, only eight catchers have accumulated more defensive runs saved than Stallings’ 32.

Between his prowess behind the plate and his experience in working with young pitchers, Stallings appears to be a good fit for the Rockies, who were looking for a backup to 2023 All-Star Elias Díaz, who was also Stallings’ teammate in Pittsburgh.

Stallings has helped guide several young pitchers over the years with the Pirates and Marlins. And when they succeed, he feels a deep sense of pride in what they accomplish. That includes a recent Cy Young Award winner in Miami.

“I got so much joy out of catching every single pitch Sandy Alcantara threw for his Cy Young year in 2022,” Stallings said. “To me, I know I had very little to do with it, but it felt like I won that Cy Young. And on the flip side, when guys don’t do as well, you wear it, too.”

Stallings is looking forward to this next chapter in his career, as well as the challenge of helping pitchers navigate games in the altitude of Denver.

“Speaking from experience, we had meetings on meetings about pitching in Colorado as a visiting team,” he said. “You feel like you have to almost switch your repertoire because pitches play differently. And our guys [with the Rockies] are going to be more used to it.

“It’s a huge home-field advantage, and the more comfortable we can get our guys -- especially the young ones -- with that thought process, hopefully as a staff we can collectively use that to our advantage.”