Chicago Cubs trade pinch hitter extraordinaire Tommy La Stella to Angels

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

It’s the end of an era as the Chicago Cubs dealt pinch-hitting specialist Tommy La Stella to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Thursday afternoon.

The clock now reads 3:01 a.m. Chicago Cubs pinch-hitting specialist Tommy LaStella has a new home. Chicago sent the utility infielder to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.

La Stella recorded just 169 at-bats in 123 games in 2018, hitting .266 with a .672 OPS. However, the infielder set a Cubs franchise record in 2018 with 24 pinch-hits, the most in MLB. He was arbitration eligible and projected to make $1.2 million in 2019.

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The move to trade La Stella is both surprising and somewhat unsurprising. His “3 A.M.” nickname was quite fitting considering how valuable his pinch-hitting was to the Cubs. Being able to hit in any moment off the bench is impressive.

On the other hand, the Cubs acquired infielder Ronald Torreyes from the Yankees on Wednesday. While it was not clear at the time, Torreyes is essentially taking La Stella’s spot on the Cubs’ 40-man, and perhaps 25-man, roster.

La Stella can play second and third base, but Torreyes can play second and third base, shortstop and even outfield. Furthermore, Torreyes is projected to make $900K in arbitration this winter, less than La Stella.

This is not to say that the Cubs traded La Stella simply because they acquired Torreyes. However, Torreyes’ ability to play shortstop will be needed at the start of the 2019 season. In a way, La Stella was a victim of a roster crunch.

Even if the Cubs bring Addison Russell back for 2019 (the aforementioned moves signal they might), Javier Báez will start the season as the team’s starting shortstop.

Basically, the Cubs need shortstop depth while Russell serves the remainder of his 40-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. Chicago definitely needs shortstop depth if Russell does not return, which could still happen.

La Stella was not an option to play shortstop behind Báez. His pinch-hitting prowess is a valuable asset to MLB teams, but the Cubs have a greater need.

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When the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A in 2016, La Stella contemplated retirement, saying the Cubs are the only MLB team he wants to play for. But now, things have changed. His best friend Jake Arrieta (sorry, Jesse Rogers) – is in year two with the Phillies and he’s accepting the trade with a positive outlook.