In their first trade of the offseason, the LA Angels swung a deal with the 2016 World Series champs Chicago Cubs. They brought in Tommy La Stella, a third baseman who will be an interesting fit in 2019.
When the LA Angels brought in Brad Ausmus as their new manager, it was obvious that analytics were going to be utilized from that point forward. Ausmus and Billy Eppler had spent the past year talking about baseball through an analytical standpoint, and it is bound to be a focus in 2019.
That is what makes the Tommy La Stella trade so interesting. Why would the Angels be interested enough in a 29-year old best known for being Kris Bryant‘s backup?
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Well, Tommy La Stella is much more than a backup.
Sure, he is a career .264 hitter. For a bench player, that is not an awful mark. His power is not where you’d want it to be, and his speed isn’t anything better than slightly above-average. So what does La Stella bring to the Angels?
La Stella mostly brings versatility. No, he is not a switch hitter but he can play third base and second base, two positions the Angels have uncertainty at going into 2019. Zack Cozart was unimpressive in his time last season prior to injury, and might not be the answer at third. David Fletcher was impressive during his time at second base last year, but improving upon that rookie year will be a big storyline for Fletcher.
Fletcher and Cozart are both right-handed hitters as well. La Stella hits from the opposite side, giving a platoon option at both second base and third base. As for defense, La Stella is an average defender at both spots, but could improve next season, as the Angels have a strong history of good defense.
Overall, this trade is very low-risk. The Angels sent cash or a PTBNL. While La Stella is no All Star, bench/depth players have become more and more valuable as the MLB moves through their analytical movement. La Stella is not going to be handed anything, but he could have a big role for the Angels next year. Billy Eppler doesn’t trade for players without having their future roles in mind.
Steve Pearce was the 2018 World Series MVP for the Red Sox. In 2016, utility man Ben Zobrist received the honor. Who’s to say La Stella won’t be that player for the Angels should they return to the Fall Classic?