Free Agent Second Baseman, and Old Friend, Tommy La Stella Is Reportedly On the Cubs Radar

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Free Agent Second Baseman, and Old Friend, Tommy La Stella Is Reportedly On the Cubs Radar

Chicago Cubs

The Cardinals declined the option on Kolten Wong, the Indians waived closer Brad Hand, and Brett was forced to have uncomfortable conversations about Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, all before the calendar even flipped to November. So far, this offseason has been everything we expected … and then some. But maybe that extra something-something will give rise to a new way of approaching free agent rumors/considerations.

Namely, when nearly every team in the league is practicing austerity and the pool of available talent projects to be unusually large, money may no longer be the decisive factor for free agents (at least below the highest tier). In other words, if the offers are going to be pretty equal across the board (which, I’ll remind you, was already a reoccurring complaint over the past few offseasons), then players will have to simply choose where they want to play for a variety of non-financial factors.

And to that end, the Cubs may have a bit of an advantage for a variety of reasons, but maybe especially so with former players who appreciated the way the organization treated them? Maybe a guy whom they gave a lot of space to work through some off-field considerations like Tommy La Stella?

And what do you know, La Stella has just been connected to the Cubs via Bruce Levine:

On the position player side, the Cubs need hitters who can make better contact and control the strike zone. Former Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella appears to be on the team’s radar again. Nico Hoerner progressed well at second base, but La Stella brings a skill set the Cubs lack. He was primarily a singles hitter in his first stint in Chicago. He still has that contact ability but now has more power, posting an .832 OPS in 2019 and an .819 OPS in 2020 in the two seasons since he left the Cubs.

The Cubs traded La Stella to the Angels before the 2019 season in a cost-cutting move, and he’s flourished ever since as a well-above average overall bat that specializes in contact and dealing with velocity (.289/.356/.471; 125 wRC+). So basically he’s a weapon against two of the main issues the Cubs offense has faced from one of the most open positions on their roster.

Well, La Stella is a free agent again and you’ll recall did have a very good relationship with both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Could that be enough to sway him to come to Chicago? Possibly. This really all depends on whether or not there’s not ONE team out there willing to go above and beyond to add what should be a high quality bat to their lineup, even in uncertain financial times. Because absent the comfort argument, I’m not sure I even expect the Cubs to spend what it would take to lead the field for La Stella. How could anyone predict that at the moment?

The one complicating factor on La Stella – other than eating crow for the decision to move him for a pitching prospect who never threw a pitch in the org – is that he has actually been pretty poor against left-handed pitching (68 wRC+ last season). And that, in general, was a giant weakness for the Cubs all of last season (third worst offensive production against LHP in 2020). You could conceivably platoon him with Nico Hoerner at second base, but 1) Hoerner pretty clearly needs time in Triple-A next season and 2) doesn’t that plan sort of eat into the argument for getting La Stella to sign up with the Cubs out of the warmth of his heart? Remember, this is a franchise that ALREADY didn’t give him a chance to own second base. Lesson learned or not, there is another prospect knocking on the door for the position, so La Stella isn’t coming back unless he has the job, full stop, at least in the short-term.

La Stella also took a fastball off his forearm near the end of this season and while there was no fracture – and he was able to play after it – it’s something to keep in mind.

And there’s really not much else here to say. La Stella would look great in the Cubs lineup next season. And it’s great to hear he’s actually on their radar. Now we just have to hope that they’re willing to offer enough to get on his radar and make up for lost time.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami