Tommy La Stella: Should the Halos consider trading him?
With Tommy La Stella set to become a free agent no matter what happens to the 2020 season, it might make sense for the Angels to trade him.
With Major League Baseball and the Player Association working toward an agreement that will grant full service time to active players even if the 2020 season is canceled, it raises the question of whether the Angels should look to trade second baseman Tommy La Stella.
Under normal conditions, La Stella would need to accumulate an additional 115 days of service to reach the six year threshold that would grant him free agent status. Given the current circumstances, had a deal not been reached between MLB and the Union, it’s possible that a shortened season would have precluded La Stella from reaching that mark. Now, with players set to receive a full year of service if they remain on the active roster, it is certain that he will become a free agent after this season, whether they play games or not.
The Angels, short on pitching, must decide if the value of keeping La Stella over a shortened season is worth more than what they could fetch by trading him in the open market. As of Friday, all transactions across the majors are frozen. But once the roster wire is live again, general manager Billy Eppler should do his due diligence in exploring potential interest.
La Stella is expendable as a 31-year-old second baseman who doesn’t hit left-handed pitching and has an obvious replacement sitting in the wings. With Jo Adell on the cusp of becoming the right fielder of the future, and the recent signing of Anthony Rendon locking up third base for the foreseeable future, super-utility man David Fletcher is searching for a position where he can accumulate the majority of his at-bats.
Fletcher has turned into a fan-favorite after a breakout 2019 campaign in which he batted .290/.350/.384 and played stellar defense over 154 games. The 25-year-old has also proven he can hit both right-handed and left-handed pitching.
While La Stella was having a breakout season of his own before fracturing his tibia last season, the 31-year-old is reaching the point on the aging curve when his production is expected to decline. His $3.25 million salary from arbitration this past winter will be pro-rated over a shortened 2020 schedule. If fully recovered from his leg injury, he becomes a relatively low-risk/low-cost veteran infielder who can help teams in need at that position.
For the Angels, once the roster freeze is lifted, they could potentially turn a few months of La Stella into something of greater need, such as pitching depth, or at least longer-term value. They could also start the season with La Stella in the lineup, letting him prove last season wasn’t a fluke and that he’s fully recovered from his leg injury, and then decide whether he is a piece they feel comfortable trading, or should remain a part of their 2020 squad.
Either way, with the 31-year-old set to become a free agent after this season, and a replacement ready to take over his position, it makes sense to explore their options.