Well, this is going to take a little time to unpack: today, the Chicago Cubs traded reliever Arodys Vizcaino back to the Atlanta Braves, together with the bulk of their remaining IFA bonus money (their second, third, and fourth slots), for infielder Tommy La Stella and Atlanta’s (small) fourth bonus slot.
It’s hard to look at this one and not assume another move is coming. Consider that, with Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Luis Valbuena, Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant all in play for just a few positions in 2015 as regular starters, the Cubs arguably were going to have to clear out some space in their infield as it was. Now they’ve added La Stella to the mix?
In his brief minor league career, La Stella always hit well, mixing a little bit of pop and a solid 10+% walk rate. In his big league debut with the Braves last year, La Stella hit .251/.328/.317 with a 10.0% walk rate and a scant 11.1% strikeout rate. His BABIP was depressed (.283), at least compared with his minor league numbers, so maybe there’s some optimism for a significant bounce going forward. La Stella bats lefty, so he’s also got that going for him. I’ll have to do a much deeper dive on him soon to better understand the acquisition here, though it appears from the Atlanta media that the Braves may have been ready to dump La Stella since August.
So, does this mean another deal is coming? Well, maybe, but it’s also possible that La Stella has simply been added as a bench bat. Of course, the tricky part there is that he’s only ever played second base. Not exactly the kind of guy you view as a utility piece, especially when the Cubs already have so many diverse options. Maybe the Cubs simply didn’t want to spend too much money to add a decent lefty bat for the bench, and maybe they believe La Stella can also play a few other positions, even if he hasn’t yet shown it?
As for what the Cubs give up, it kind of sucks to see Vizcaino go before the Cubs ever got a chance to make use of him, but it was clear that he wasn’t banging down the door this past year – his second with the Cubs after a couple long surgery recoveries – and young power arms is certainly an area of depth for the Cubs. That’s especially true if the Cubs make good on those rumors that they’d like to add another back-end arm in free agency.
That is all to say, Vizcaino still has a ton of upside in the bullpen, but pen upside is only worth so much (especially when it comes with injury concerns). From there, parting with the IFA pool slots is gravy, because, if the Braves wanted ‘em, great. They had virtually no value to the Cubs, given their 2013-splurge-induced restrictions. We expected the Cubs to trade those slots dating all the way back to July 2.
I don’t think the Cubs did poorly in this trade from a value standpoint – I’m just trying to wrap my head around the addition of La Stella, in particular, and what it does or doesn’t mean. There’s obviously a good reason behind the scenes, but, from where I sit sorting out the trade just a few minutes after it was announced, I don’t see it yet.
That part might take some time to process.