The Giants are close to signing free agent infielder Tommy La Stella, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Twitter). La Stella is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council. Though the deal is still being finalized, it’s said to be for a term of three years, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). That would be the longest deal handed out by Farhan Zaidi since taking over as the president baseball ops, notes Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).
If indeed La Stella signs for three years, he will have earned a longer contract than we projected at the outset of free agency. La Stella was the No. 30 free agent on our board with a projected two-year, $14MM deal ahead of him – a mark he seems to have surpassed. As for the Giants, their books are almost entirely clear following the 2022 season, where a $13MM club option for Evan Longoria is the only contract currently on the payroll. The $5MM buyout attached to that deal is the only guaranteed money on the books for the 2023 season, so a third year for La Stella certainly isn’t prohibitive, assuming a manageable AAV.
La Stella’s story is one of perseverance, as there was a time he considered retirement prior to the 2016 season. Again at the deadline, when the Cubs optioned the then-27-year-old La Stella to Triple-A, he thought about hanging it up rather than continue to grind back and forth between the minors and the Show. He returned, however, to resume his role as a professional pinch-hitter, winning a ring with the 2016 Cubs. When he reached free agency, La Stella looked for an opportunity to play full-time, and he found it with the Angela. His breakout in during an All-Star season in 2019 when he slashed .295/.346/.486 with 16 home runs across 321 plate appearances.
He kept it up during the truncated 2020 season, producing 1.2 fWAR and 129 wRC+ that took the shape of a .281/.370/.449 line, solid 11.8 percent walk rate, and minuscule 5.3 percent strikeout rate. Though those numbers came in just 228 plate appearances, the Giants figure they are adding a tough out to the top of their lineup in the form of La Stella, who turns 32 years old at the end of the month.
For the Giants, La Stella fits a need as a left-handed bat that slides into the top of the order. Defensively, La Stella should take over the majority of reps at second base, pushing Donovan Solano back into a utility role. La Stella can also play third base. The Giants can now roll with a starting infield of Brandon Belt, La Stella, Brandon Crawford, and Longoria. Solano, Mauricio Dubon, Wilmer Flores, and Jason Vosler are capable of infield reps off the bench. Buster Posey, if healthy, would figure to spend some time at first base as well. In all, it’s a crowded, if versatile group. It also likely means Dubón spending most of his time in the outfield.