Very Early Analysis on Cubs Picking Up Tommy La Stella, Losing Arodys Vizcaino

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Very Early Analysis on Cubs Picking Up Tommy La Stella, Losing Arodys Vizcaino

Chicago Cubs

arodys vizcaino cubsToday, the Cubs made a trade that, while not the biggest move in the world, is certainly one of the most interesting you’ll see. If I told you before the day started that the Braves would be trading 25-year-old second baseman Tommy La Stella, how far down on your list of guesses would the Cubs have popped up? 25th? 28th?

But it was the Cubs, picking up La Stella from the Braves for reliever Arodys Vizcaino and three international bonus slots (partially offset by a small slot the Cubs get back from the Braves).

While the Cubs certainly aren’t hurting for infield depth, there’s no reason to believe – even without another trade – they couldn’t stand to add someone like La Stella. He bats lefty (and has a nice, patient approach), he plays effective second base (maybe he can play elsewhere), and the Cubs are going to need bench guys, too. Having a cheap, quality bench option in La Stella (if that’s what he proves to be) saves a couple million bucks that might be allocated elsewhere. And, I don’t want to completely short-change La Stella: based on a quick look and his previous scouting profile, he does have starter upside.

My early take on the instant “oh, man, this means another trade is coming” reaction in some corners is … really? I mean, sure, maybe. That was already possible. But it’s not like La Stella – for all that you might like about him – is a guy you add because he makes anyone else expendable. You add him because you want him, maybe as depth or a pop-up starter, but not because you think he replaces Javier Baez or Starlin Castro or whoever. I suppose it’s possible that the increased flexibility to make a move enters into the discussion when you decide whether or not to pull the trigger on adding La Stella, but it’s more of an ancillary benefit than the reason you make the move.

Putting it all together, I think this deal is fairly straightforward: the Cubs targeted a guy they wanted, regardless of position, figuring they could sort that part out later. In exchange, they gave up a high-risk piece from a position of strength and some IFA bonus slots that were essentially of no value to the Cubs (but the market value of which had to be captured sooner or later, or it would become of no value to anyone at all). Vizcaino may well have been squeezed out of a spot anyway. And now, with La Stella in the fold, the Cubs have a tiny bit more flexibility to deal from their infield depth, which was already a possibility – but is now just a touch more comfortable.

Even from a pure “asset” perspective, I don’t think there’s any question that La Stella is a more valuable asset than Vizcaino. Grabbing that difference by using the IFA slots is worth it, even if it meant additional positional glut.

Other early miscellaneous thoughts on the deal:

  • La Stella has minor league options left, so, even if he doesn’t immediately claim a job on the Cubs, he’d be fantastic depth to start the year at AAA Iowa. If that became necessary, I mean.
  • Arodys Vizcaino, by contrast, has options left, but, because of his big league service time (he collected it while on the 60-day DL on the 40-man roster), he has to clear optional assignment waivers before actually being optioned to Iowa. There seems to be a gentleman’s agreement not to grab guys like Vizcaino if they wind up on waivers (for the purpose of optioning him to AAA) at the end of Spring Training, but that’s entirely anecdotal on my part, and I could be mistaken. Thus, it’s a risk with him, especially given the Cubs’ extreme bullpen depth.
  • Speaking of Vizcaino risks, he not only has a higher risk profile than La Stella by virtue of being a pitcher, but he’s a pitcher who’s already had two arm surgeries (and who was though to be at an elevated injury risk even before that). The Braves are getting more upside in this deal, because Vizcaino could emerge as a killer back-end option, but they’re also taking on more of the risk.
  • Also on Vizcaino/the bullpen, as I mentioned in the original trade piece, being parted with Vizcaino now makes the rumors about the Cubs adding an impact reliever slightly less implausible. No, the Cubs wouldn’t have been counting on Vizcaino either way, but adding a sure-fire late-inning free agent would have made Vizcaino’s path much less tenable. I can imagine a world where the Cubs just saved a couple million on a reserve infielder, opened up a possible bullpen spot, and then use that money (not literally, but just from a planning standpoint) to sweeten a deal for a Luke Gregerson type (or a David Robertson or Andrew Miller, though they’ll need a ton more sweetness to sign).
  • Adding La Stella is a bench option could mean that someone like Logan Watkins is now superfluous. He didn’t get many looks last year despite the need popping up from time to time (Chris Valaika seemed to be preferred), and could be removed from the 40-man roster. If so, picking up La Stella for Vizcaino could have the practical effect of opening up a 40-man spot, even if it doesn’t technically have that effect today.
  • Perish the thought, but … if La Stella can play third base, and if the plan is for Kris Bryant to be the regular third baseman in 2015, perhaps La Stella replaces Luis Valbuena as the 2B/3B utility guy? That gives the Cubs an awesome trade chip in Valbuena. I know, it’s terrifying to suggest.
  • I can’t wait to dig in on La Stella’s numbers and background to see if maybe there’s something lurking in there that suggests the Braves undervalued him as a starter, but on thing an early look suggests: his skill set (no strikeouts, high walks) would seem to play well on days at Wrigley when the wind is blowing in and you just want guys who are going to put the ball in play (but without relying on power (though he does have pop)), and/or take walks.
  • The Braves, it would seem, are now in the market for a second baseman.
  • I wonder if the Cubs already talked to the Braves about La Stella back when they were trading James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio. Ken Rosenthal’s tweet below suggests maybe.
  • Some Tweets in the immediate aftermath of the deal that are worth checking out (not that I’m endorsing them all):

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.