Tommy La Stella had a solid 2020 season between the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. After tapping into more power than he ever had before in 2019 (his first year with the Angels), he showed more of the same in the shortened season. Instead of just being a slap-happy hitter, La Stella changed his approach to pull and drive the ball more. The utility man played 33 of his 55 games at second, ten at first, six at third, and nine at designated hitter. Let’s take a look at his market as we slowly move forward in a tumultuous 2020-21 offseason.
La Stella was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the eighth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Coastal Carolina University. He started the 2014 season with the Gwinnett Braves of the Class AAA International League and made his MLB debut that May. On August 8, he hit his first major league home run off Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
After hitting just .251 in 93 games, La Stella was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. He made the Cubs’ 2015 Opening Day roster but only played two games before straining his right oblique, and then suffered another oblique strain while on a rehab assignment. He missed several months before being recalled to the Cubs big league roster on August 24. In 33 games (mostly as a pinch hitter), La Stella slashed .294/.324/.403 and began playing third base.
In 2016, La Stella finished the season hitting .270/.357/.405 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 74 games. He had one plate appearance during the 2016 postseason but earned a ring when the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. He had a career-high five homers in 2017 and then played in his most major league games in 2018 with 123. That year, he broke the Cubs’ record for pinch hits in a season with his 21st pinch-hit, coming on August 31. La Stella finished that season hitting .266/.340/.331 with one home run and 19 RBI in 169 at-bats. The Cubs traded him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that offseason for future considerations.
Tapping Into His Potential
That trade immediately paid off for the Angels as he put up his best season to date. Through 43 games as their starting second baseman and leadoff hitter, La Stella was slashing .301/.388/.611 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI. These stats earned him his first All-Star selection. Unfortunately, he fractured his tibia on a foul ball on July 2 and did not make his return until late September, playing in two of the Angels’ final three games.
Between the Angels and Athletics in 2020, he hit .281/.370/.449 with five homers and 25 RBI. He was the hardest player to strike out as he averaged 16.3 at-bats per strikeout. On Aug. 28, the Angels moved La Stella to the A’s for Franklin Barreto.
La Stella made $3.25 million in 2020 and will likely earn a contract in that range this offseason. There are many teams that could use a utility infield bat like his. He will receive either a one- or two-year deal, possibly with an option for an extra year.
Top Landing Spots
La Stella was just a role player in his time with the Cubs, but now has come into his own. Nico Hoerner didn’t progress very well at second in 2020 and could very well start 2021 in Triple-A. In a small sample size, he hit .222/.312/.259 in 48 games with 126 plate appearances. The Cubs could bring back La Stella to fill second base until they see how Hoerner progresses. La Stella could also slide into third if the Cubs trade Kris Bryant.
The A’s should certainly consider bringing La Stella back. One of their biggest weaknesses is batting to contact and stringing hits together. That is something the left-handed batter excels at, evidenced by his career .350 on-base percentage. He is not the strongest defensive player but at the right price, Oakland could certainly live with that. They won’t afford the best-of-the-best like DJ LeMahieu so they’ll take a poor man’s version of him.
New York Yankees
The Yankees need more contact hitters desperately. They also need lefty bats and La Stella fills both of those needs. Whether or not they bring LeMahieu back, La Stella should be a target. His ability to play multiple infield roles is also a huge plus for the Yankees, who need an upgrade over Tyler Wade as the backup at those positions. He has a 12 percent career strikeout rate which is the complete opposite of a number of the Yankees’ hitters.