MLB Trade Review: Marlins Acquire Stallings

The Miami Marlins have added the top catcher on the market, sending RHP Zach Thompson, OF Connor Scott, and RHP Kyle Nicolas to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jacob Stallings.

The Pirates did not have a ton of players with value. But after Bryan Reynolds, Stallings was probably their second best player. Offensively, he is a below-average hitter, although not by much. But, he is a very good defensive catcher, who will make Miami’s young pitching staff better. The sad part is that even though his 95 wRC+ from 2021 is not good, it would be a big addition to the Marlins lineup four months ago. This likely means that Jorge Alfaro will be non-tendered by the team after a tough season.

Stallings, who in a month will be 31, is not a free agent until 2025. He hit eight home runs with a .335 OBP, a .369 slugging (.704 OPS), a 2.6 fWAR, and a 3.0 bWAR. He has a career .701 OPS, a 5.0 fWAR, and a 6.0 bWAR.

The return going to Pittsburgh is headlined by Thompson. A career minor leaguer, mostly with the White Sox, he struggled at AAA before making the most out of his MLB opportunity in 2021. Thompson has an effective, high spin cutter that was his primary pitch out of the bullpen and while starting. The 28 year old had a 3.24 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, a 3.71 xERA, and a strikeout rate of 21% in 75 innings.

The two prospects that are now Pirates were both ranked by MLB Pipeline on the Marlins’ top-30 list. Nicolas was 16th, Scott 23rd. Drafted 61st overall in 2020, Nicolas still qualifies as a first round selection. His first professional season started off rough at High-A. He did have 86 strikeouts in 59.2 innings, but also allowed 13 home runs. Nicolas ramped things up after a promotion to AA. In eight starts, he struck out 50 in 39.1 innings with a 2.52 ERA. The main issue for him is control; Nicolas walked 25 batters after his call-up, and 24 prior.

Scott is also a first rounder, albeit a lot higher than Nicolas. He was the 13th overall pick in 2018, picked just ahead of promising Seattle rookie Logan Gilbert. Scott had his best minor league season yet in 2021 at the age of 21. He hit 10 homers with 14 stolen bases, a .779 OPS, and a 112 wRC+ in 96 games. Scott has speed but his bat has always been behind. There is some work to do here for Pittsburgh.

MLB Trade Review: Mariners Acquire Adam Frazier

After acquiring him at the trade deadline, the San Diego Padres have sent utility player Adam Frazier to the Seattle Mariners for LHP Ray Kerr and OF Corey Rosier.

Frazier was off to a career season in 2021, with an OPS of .836, when he was sent to San Diego. Everything fell apart after that, with a .662 OPS following the trade. With a year left on his contract, the Padres are trying to get some of their lost value back. They dealt Tucupita Marcano, Jack Suwinski, and Michell Miliano to Pittsburgh, which is a solid haul. MLB Pipeline has Marcano ninth and Suwinski 29th on Pittsburgh’s top prospects list.

In return, they get two players at very different spots in their career. Kerr is a hard throwing lefty who is not really a prospect anymore at the age of 27. He had a 37.4 K% with a 2.83 ERA and a 2.54 FIP at AA last season. Kerr was called up to AAA. While not as good, he still managed to post a FIP of 3.02. Combined, he only threw 39.2 innings last season.

That would mean that Rosier has to be the centerpiece of the deal. A 12th round draft pick from earlier this year, Rosier went from Chipola College in Florida to Single-A, where he had a .390/.461/.585 slash line with 13 stolen bases in 31 games.

Frazier was reportedly a big target for the Mariners at the trade deadline. They lost out on him, and now get him for a lot less than they would have months ago. Even with his awful stint with the Padres, his total numbers are still good. He struck out just 10.8 percent of the time with a .305 average, a .368 OBP, 114 wRC+, and a 3.5 fWAR. Frazier is also a decent defender with flexibility. He is mainly a second baseman, but also played left field last season. In his career, Frazier has played third, shortstop, left, and right field. If the Mariners miss out on a big bat this offseason, then Frazier can start at second base. If not, he will be a solid utility option.

MLB Trade Review: Tigers Acquire Barnhart

The Detroit Tigers have acquired catcher Tucker Barnhart in exchange for infielder Nick Quintana.

Planning to non-tender him, the Reds instead sent Barnhart to the American League for a prospect. The Tigers are willing to pay Barnhart $7.5 million, unlike the Reds, who seem to be cutting costs. In return, they get Quintana. He was taken in the second round of the 2019 draft by Detroit after dominating at the University of Arizona. However, since turning pro, Quintana has been a massive disappointment. His offense has gone from his strength to a weakness. He will be a reclamation project for Cincinnati.

Quintana, 24, hit nine home runs with four stolen bases, a .317 OBP, and a .645 OPS in 375 Plate Appearances across three levels, mainly Single-A Lakeland. In his minor league career, Quintana has hit 11 bombs with eight steals, a .299 OBP, and a .607 OPS in 635 Plate Appearances.

While Eric Haase’s 22 home runs was a pleasant surprise from behind the plate, Barnhart is a welcome addition to the Tigers, who make the trade to jump what would have been Barnhart’s free agent market. A two-time Gold Glove winner, Barnhart has been well below average offensively all throughout his career. His OPS+ has been exactly 75 in each of the past two seasons. He is a good pitch framer and while his 7.5 BB% in 2021 was not good, it snapped a three year streak of that being over 10%. If he can get back to the double-digit walk rate, while helping out the young Tigers’ pitching staff, then Barnhart will be an effective platoon option.

Barnhart, 30, hit seven home runs with a .317 OBP and a .685 OPS in 388 Plate Appearances for the Reds last season. In his MLB career, all for Cincinnati, Barnhart has hit 51 home runs with a .324 OBP and a .696 OPS in 2561 Plate Appearances.

Winnipeg Jets 2021-22 Season Preview

The Jets’ playoff run was filled with two close match-ups where both teams battled things out tightly. Or… not. The Jets embarrassed the Oilers in four, then failed to win a single game versus Montreal. They had so many defensive struggles that it was a must to upgrade in that area this offseason. And hey, they did! Winnipeg does not look half bad, especially now that Connor Hellebuyck has some help.

Offseason Additions: D Nate Schmidt, D Brenden Dillon, F Riley Nash.

Offseason subtractions: F Mason Appleton, F Mathieu Perrault, G Laurent Brossoit, D Derek Forbort, D Tucker Poolman, F Trevor Lewis, F Nate Thompson, D Jordie Benn, D Sami Niku.

Forwards

A great season for Mark Scheifele was dampened by a dirty playoff hit on Jake Evans that had him suspended for the rest of the second round and even the start of this season. Scheifele does not have the best underlying numbers, but he can put points on the board, with 21 goals and 42 assists for 63 points in 56 games last season. He is an efficient player, as he has sustained a 16 percent shooting rate and a 102 PDO over his career. The same could be said for Kyle Connor, who has a 15.4 percent shooting percentage over his career. Connor scored 26 goals with 50 points last season. He has not missed a game over the past three seasons, scoring 98 goals in that span. Blake Wheeler played a good amount of center in 2019-20, but he moved completely away from that position last year, taking just eight draws. He scored 15 goals with 31 assists in 50 games. The Winnipeg captain has been on pace to reach at least 70 points, or just hit the mark in every single year since 2015-16. The most underrated Jet is easily Nikolaj Ehlers, who quietly averaged about a point-per-game last season, with 46 in 47 games. 21 of those points were goals, extending his 20+ goal streak to five seasons. After coming over from Columbus for Patrik Laine, Pierre-Luc Dubois was a big disappointment. He scored just eight goals with 12 assists in 41 games. Dubois has the talent to be a borderline first line center, but the Jets didn’t see that. Dubois now has a new number, honoring late teammate Matiss Kivlenieks. In his return to Winnipeg, Paul Stastny scored 13 goals with 16 assists, while winning 54.7 percent of his face-offs. The veteran’s CF% of 57.4 was significantly higher than the team’s average. Andrew Copp had a breakout season, establishing himself as a very good middle-six winger. Copp averaged over 18 minutes a night, scoring 15 goals with 39 points. All three of those were career-highs for the Ann Arbor native. Ginormous center Adam Lowry signed a five-year extension with the Jets midseason, carrying a $3.25 million AAV. He scored ten goals with 14 assists, while laying 161 hits. After losing Mason Appleton to Seattle, the Jets need 2017 first-rounder Kristian Vesalainen to step up and be a third line wing. Vesalainen had just an assist in 12 NHL games last season. In the AHL, he scored a goal with four assists in six games. 21-year-old David Gustafsson played for three teams last year; the Jets, the AHL Moose, and Tingsryds AIF in Sweden. He had 17 points in 16 games overseas, plus 19 points in 22 games for Manitoba. Gustafsson only got into four NHL games. Jansen Harkins drew into 26 games last season, but did not do much while averaging under eight-and-a-half minutes a game. Harkins had a goal and an assist. His father Todd and uncle Brett both played in the NHL. In comes Riley Nash, a veteran who does not offer much offensively but is very skilled in his own end. He had seven points in 37 games for the Blue Jackets last season, and despite not playing in a single regular season game for them, Nash played in two postseason games for Toronto. Dominic Toninato only got into two games for Winnipeg last year, and he scored three goals in three AHL games. Toninato was a semi-regular for the Panthers in 2019-20, with 11 points in 46 games.

Defensemen

The Jets trust Josh Morrissey to be a top-pairing defender, but he has really struggled in that role, to the point where his new seven-year deal looks dicey. Morrissey had 21 points in 56 games, with a very ugly 3.05 xGA/60, which cannot happen to a number one defenseman. He could be helped out by the arrival of Nate Schmidt, the energetic defender who did not have a fun season in Vancouver. Schmidt had 15 points in 54 games, a year after he had 31 in 59 contests for Vegas. Schmidt finished 13th in Lady Byng voting, taking just two minor penalties all season. The other key defensive add for the Jets, Brenden Dillon, is the polar opposite of Schmidt. He is a defensive-minded, physical player who will spend a decent amount of time in the penalty box. In his only full season for the Capitals, Dillon had 19 points with 49 penalty minutes, 61 blocks, and 143 hits. Neal Pionk is the team’s best power play option on defense, as ten of his 32 points were on the man advantage. He may not be the biggest guy, but Pionk had 137 hits last season. It was pretty surprising to see the Jets expose Dylan DeMelo in the expansion draft, and then get to retain him. DeMelo is a very good defensive player, although he was underused last season, with his ice time being cut down to under 17 minutes a game. Former first-rounder Logan Stanley was decent in his rookie season, although he did not get a chance to shine. Stanley had four points with 31 blocks and 49 hits in 37 games. Stanley scored two more times with 21 hits in the playoffs. Nathan Beaulieu has been a depth option for the Jets over the past two seasons, although he has struggled. Beaulieu had just an assist with 20 penalty minutes, 30 blocked shots, and 39 hits in 25 games last season. Ville Heinola has five points in 13 NHL games, although none of those points came in his five games last season. The 20-year-old had 11 points in 19 games for the Moose.

Goalies

While his overall numbers may not look amazing, Connor Hellebuyck is an absolute star, and arguably the league’s top goalie. He has been overused, seeing more shots than any goalie in each of the last three seasons, but Hellebuyck has still been good. Behind an awful Winnipeg defense, he had a .916 save percentage with a GSAA of 11. Hellebuyck was great in the first round, with an all-around playoff save percentage of .931. With Laurent Brossoit leaving for Vegas, Eric Comrie will finally get a chance to be an NHL backup. He started his career with the Jets, but bounced around last year and now returns. Comrie played in one game for the Devils. In four AHL games, he allowed just five goals.

Projected Lines

Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler

Pierre-Luc Dubois – Paul Stastny – Nikolaj Ehlers

Andrew Copp – Adam Lowry – Kristian Vesalainen

Jansen Harkins – David Gustafsson – Riley Nash

Extras: Dominic Toninato

Josh Morrissey – Nate Schmidt

Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk

Logan Stanley – Dylan DeMelo

Extras: Nathan Beaulieu, Ville Heinola

Connor Hellebuyck

Eric Comrie

Prediction

The Jets are not a total defensive hole anymore. They may be in trouble if the injury bug hits them, but they have a strong roster. Hellebuyck can take over games. This team is sneaky-dangerous. They will make the playoffs, even making it into the divisional spots, passing the wild card.

Washington Capitals 2021-22 Season Preview

For the past decade, The Capitals and Penguins were both dominant forces. Now, they are both in the same position, trying to stay away from a collapse. The Capitals are the ones with the upper hand on the rivalry as of now. Alex Ovechkin is now under contract for a lot longer. They have a successor to Braden Holtby. The team has great depth on the wings. But can Father Time stay away from this team for long enough?

Offseason additions: D Matt Irwin.

Offseason subtractions: D Brenden Dillon, D Zdeno Chara, F Michael Raffl, G Craig Anderson, F Dan Carr.

Forwards

While winning another Stanley Cup would be nice, all that Alex Ovechkin needs to do is break Wayne Gretzky’s goal scoring record. Already the greatest sniper of our generation, if not all-time, Ovechkin scored 24 times with 42 points in 45 games. He was not close to winning the Rocket Richard, breaking his streak of three in a row for that award. It’s not like he needs it, as “Ovi” has led the league in goals nine times. The Capitals will miss Nicklas Backstrom to start the season, as the star center is still laboring from an injury sustained last season. Backstrom’s 53 points led the team last year. He scored 15 goals in 55 games, for a pace of 22 over 82 games, which would have tied for the third-highest total of his career. Washington reportedly tried to shop Evgeny Kuznetsov this offseason, but to no avail. He was very disappointing in 2020-21, scoring just nine times with 20 assists in 41 games. If he does not have a redemption season, then Kuznetsov will be letting down two teams; his IIHF suspension will prevent him from playing for Team Russia in the Olympics. Tom Wilson was successfully able to own an entire franchise, as the entire Rangers’ offseason seemed to revolve around an incident involving Wilson at the end of the regular season. Wilson’s 96 penalty minutes led the league last year, and he added 13 goals with 20 assists to the mix. The Capitals dealt a haul at the deadline for Anthony Mantha, who scored four goals with four assists in 16 games after the trade. He was not great in the playoffs, with just two assists in five games. Mantha has been a very good scorer for Detroit, but he suffered a career-low 10.9 percent shooting rate last season. Washington gave TJ Oshie a trial at center last season, although he should play wing again, even with Backstrom out. He continued to score in his sixth season with the team, with 22 goals and 21 assists. Oshie’s physical side is underrated; he has averaged over a hit-per-game in all 13 of his NHL seasons. Lars Eller could move up to second line momentarily. The ideal third line center, Eller does not score enough to be a consistent top-six threat. He played in 44 games last season, with eight goals and 23 points. Rookie Connor McMichael is an option as well. The 2019 first-rounder played in one AHL game last year, after scoring 14 goals with 27 points in 33 AHL games. This came after he dominated the OHL with the London Knights. Daniel Sprong has always been known for his shot, and he showed it off in 42 games last year, scoring 13 goals on 74 shots. He played all over the Washington lineup, although Sprong never had a ton of ice time. Former rival Conor Sheary was a solid bottom-six piece, as the five-foot-nine wing scored 14 times. The Capitals extended him for two more years, with an AAV of $1.5 million. Garnet Hathaway had 179 hits, missing his 2019-20 mark by ten, in ten less games. The checking winger added six goals and 12 assists while being one of four Caps to play in all 56 regular season games. The three forwards of that group are all on the bottom line. Speedy Carl Hagelin has definitely exited his prime, but he is still a very solid penalty killer. Hagelin had 16 points last season. Center Nic Dowd scored a career-high 11 times last season, as he was helped out by a 16.2 percent shooting rate. The Alabama native had 109 hits with 40 blocks while averaging well over 14 minutes a game. The team’s depth is pretty rough. Michael Sgarbossa had two assists in five games, an opportunity earned by leading the AHL Bears for multiple seasons. Sgarbossa had ten points in 14 games for Hershey last season. 2020 first rounder Hendrix Lapierre could win that middle-six center job over McMichael, or at least get the nine-game trial to start the season. Lapierre had 31 points in 21 QMJHL games last season.

Defensemen

John Carlson’s defensive struggles easily cost him the 2019-20 Norris, and hurt him from finishing top-five last season. Carlson scored ten times with 34 assists, finishing 12th for the best defender award. He has consistently been one of the league’s top offensive defensemen while playing heavy minutes. Dmitry Orlov is the backbone of the top pairing, although he averaged under 20 minutes a game for the first time since 2016-17 last year. Orlov had 22 points with 50 blocks and 87 hits. Orlov is the only left-handed defender on the team who does not carry a major question mark. Nick Jensen has been a solid shot-blocking defender since coming over from Detroit in 2018-19. He played in 53 games last year, with 14 points. Jensen also blocked 65 shots with 56 hits. Along with Sheary, Hagelin, and Sprong, Justin Schultz was a Penguin during the back-to-back Cup wins. Schultz was not amazing in his first season as a Capital, but he still managed to put up 27 points, his most since he did the same thing in 2017-18. Trevor van Riemsdyk only played in 20 games last year, but he is a solid third-pairing player who the Capitals will take after losing Brenden Dillon and Zdeno Chara. van Riemsdyk had three points with 27 blocks last season. Veteran Matt Irwin was a member of the Sabres last year, which is not an ideal location for a defenseman, or a player in general. In 24 games, Irwin was more a part of the problem than of a solution. He was not scared of making contact, with 43 blocks and 56 hits. Michael Kempny could be a huge part of the team’s defense this year, although his recent involvement on waivers suggests otherwise. He was injured for all of 2020-21. Kempny had 18 points with 72 blocks in 58 games back in 2019-20.

Goalies

Compared to contracts signed by Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin, and Carter Hart, Ilya Samsonov’s new $2 million cap hit looks like a steal, even though he was underwhelming last season. Dealing with injuries, Samsonov had a .902 save percentage with a 2.69 GAA, and a -3.0 GSAA in 19 games. Backup Vitek Vanecek was the starter for most of the regular season. He had an eventful offseason, being claimed by Seattle before the Capitals traded for him back. He had a .908 save percentage in his rookie season.

Projected Lines

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson

Anthony Mantha – Lars Eller – TJ Oshie

Conor Sheary – Connor McMichael – Daniel Sprong

Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

Extras: Hendrix Lapierre, Michael Sgarbossa

Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson

Nick Jensen – Justin Schultz

Matt Irwin – Trevor van Riemsdyk

Extras: Michal Kempny

Ilya Samsonov

Vitek Vanecek

Prediction

If the Caps’ projected lines looked weak to you, remind yourself that their top scorer from last year should be in the lineup very soon. Washington is still a powerhouse. Health will be a key factor for them, but they have depth within their starting lineup. The one concern is really depth outside the lineup, but that can be improved upon midseason. Washington will finish in third place, but have to face old friend Barry Trotz again in round one.