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Why it’s time for Marlins to demote Jacob Stallings

The Marlins must face the reality that Stallings is barely playable at this stage of his career.

Miami Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings (58) is held back by manager Skip Schumaker (55) as he questions the call by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson (51) before being ejected during the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of the 2021 season, it became apparent that the Miami Marlins needed to start over at the catcher position. Few acquisitions of Kim Ng’s GM tenure have been as well-received as the trade she made to get Jacob Stallings that November. Following three straight seasons of solid hitting and still having three more years of club control remaining and fresh off winning the National League Gold Glove, the veteran backup filled a void.

Unfortunately, 18 months into his Marlins career, Stallings has failed to deliver. There is no way to sugarcoat it: he’s made a team weakness even weaker.

Stallings enters play on Monday with a .118/.178/.162 slash line this season. His -4 wRC+ is the worst in all of Major League Baseball among hitters with a minimum of 75 plate appearances. Early in the year, his batted ball quality was intriguing—if he could just go to the pull side more often and get some better luck, decent results seemed attainable. Those “barrels” have gone away, however. Stallings is more than a month removed from his last extra-base hit.

Baseball Savant

Considering how physically demanding the position is on a player’s lower body, it is natural to assume that any catcher will be a liability as a baserunner. Even relative to his fellow backstops, Stallings is a snail. His Sprint Speed, as calculated by Baseball Savant, was in the first percentile among qualifiers in 2022 and it’s in the second percentile in 2023. It takes him five full seconds to get down the first-base line. The last time he scored from first base on a double was 2019.

Most disappointing of all, Stallings’ defense has slipped. He arrived to Miami with the reputation of being a great receiver and solid pitch framer, but hasn’t sustained that. MLB rule changes have shortened the distance between bases and limited the number of “disengagements” that pitchers can use to keep runners in check. That has exposed Stallings’ throwing arm, which is mediocre in terms of both strength and accuracy. Only one baserunner (Mike Yastrzemski) has been caught stealing by him this season in 20 attempts.

Baseball Savant

Catchers can add intangible value with their game-calling and their relationships with individual pitchers. When Sandy Alcantara emerged as a superstar in 2022 and won the NL Cy Young award, Stallings got a share of the credit—after all, he caught 100% of the ace’s pitches. That myth about Stallings pushing all the right buttons is gradually being busted in 2023 as the battery is routinely getting scored upon in late-game situations. What if Alcantara’s historic campaign was simply the byproduct of an experienced starter peaking at age 26?

It’d be wrong to overreact to a small portion of a single season, no matter how bad. In Stallings’ case, though, he struggled for most of 2022 as well. Since becoming a Marlin, his -1.5 wins above replacement is the fourth-worst of any MLB position player, per FanGraphs. He is only ahead of the retiring Miguel Cabrera, the recently retired Robinson Chirinos and Franmil Reyes. Continuing to have Stallings catch approximately half of Miami’s games is unjustifiable.

Earning $3.35 million this season, Stallings would be due a similar or greater salary via arbitration next season. We’ve seen enough to predict that the Marlins won’t be amenable to that.

I am not recommending that the Marlins cut their losses with Stallings (yet). Nick Fortes (51 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR in 31 G) has also been a disappointment this season and there isn’t any other major league-ready catcher in the organization worth getting excited about. Triple-A Jacksonville’s Austin Allen makes loud contact and has homered six times in the month of May alone, but he didn’t hit a lick in his previous MLB opportunities from 2019-2022 and he can’t control the running game, either. Double-A Pensacola’s Paul McIntosh is currently injured. It’s too early in the year to convince another club to trade you their established catcher. By all accounts a supportive teammate, there is no urgency to extricate Stallings from Miami’s clubhouse.

What I am recommending is that the Marlins use the coming months to determine what Fortes is capable of. Let him catch Alcantara. Let him catch...pretty much everybody.

The playing time split I’m envisioning would have Fortes being the main catcher for every Marlins starter except Edward Cabrera. Cabrera’s best outings this season have come with Stallings behind the plate. Even when the enigmatic right-hander is sharp, he’s rarely efficient enough to stick around beyond the sixth inning, so there would be opportunities to pinch-hit for Stallings once Cabrera is out of the game and the Marlins need offense. Stallings could also start occasionally in day-game-after-night-game scenarios.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Fish Stripes podcast channel has rebranded to Fish on First! Our programs include The Offishial Show, Fish Stripes Unfiltered, Fishology, State of the Fish and What a Relief. All new episodes are posted to You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean, Megaphone or wherever you normally get your pods from.