With the 2020 MLB trade deadline approaching in a few days, the Oakland A’s swung their first deal on Friday. They acquired infielder Tommy La Stella from the Los Angeles Angels, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
In exchange, the A’s sent infielder Franklin Barreto to the Angels.
The left-handed batting La Stella is an obvious fit in an A’s lineup that leans heavily to the right. His primary position is second base, which is the least excellent spot on the diamond for Oakland, but he has the versatility to cover multiple places around the infield. His offensive profile is exactly what the A’s need, with the ability to get on base and make a ton of contact — his strikeout rate is the lowest in the entire majors among qualified hitters, down in the single-digits.
La Stella, 2020: .273/.371/.475, 134 wRC+, 4 HR, 12.8%, 6.0% Ks
He’s long posted solid OBP marks, but last summer he enjoyed a breakout that saw him cut his strikeouts from low to minuscule, while also adding power. He earned 2 WAR in just 80 games, and is on a similar pace this year.
The 31-year-old will be a free agent after the season, so he’s a one-month rental for the A’s.
Meanwhile, Oakland finally moves on from Barreto, the last piece that came to them directly from the post-2014 Josh Donaldson trade — though reliever J.B. Wendelken is still indirectly part of the overall trade tree, as is upper-minors pitching prospect Zack Erwin. Barreto was once a Top 100 prospect but couldn’t force his way up to the majors, spending parts of the last four seasons getting sporadic cups of coffee.
The main thing holding the 24-year-old back is his inability to make contact against top-level pitching, and on top of that he hasn’t shown enough on defense to earn a spot in the lineup purely on that side of the ball. In 219 career plate appearances, his numbers are abysmal.
Barreto, career: .180/.210/.360, 50 wRC+, 9 HR, 3.2% BB, 42.0% Ks
As a prospect he received raves for his hitting potential, and he’s proven that his bat has plenty of power even at the MLB level. But his last appearance with the A’s on Wednesday was symbolic of his struggles so far, as he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
I was planning to write an article this weekend called something along the lines of “Tommy La Stella is the player I want the A’s to acquire.” No joke. I was also going to advocate for standing pat, but if they made a move then this was the specific guy I wanted. Top of my list.
He’s everything the A’s need. He’s the on-base presence to set the table for the sluggers, at the exact position where he can most easily slip into the lineup. He’s the guy who can make contact with a runner in scoring position when everyone else is whiffing. There is literally nobody in the majors who strikes out less often. La Stella is the gold standard in that regard, and his swinging-strike rate is fourth-lowest among MLB hitters dating back through 2019.
Furthermore, he’s just a quick rental, so Oakland didn’t have to part with a major piece for one month of a mercenary. Barreto was clearly not part of the future plans, nor even the present ones given his almost complete lack of playing time, so while he still carries some potential this was a shrewd way to salvage his remaining value instead of just DFA’ing him later.
Not gonna lie, I’m a bit nervous about Barreto going to a division rival. If he breaks out into a star, he could seriously haunt the A’s. But mostly I’m happy that he could finally get a chance to prove himself, for more than a week at a time like he used to get here. He deserves that.
The A’s already have Tony Kemp playing well at second base, as a lefty with a strong OBP and good defense, but there could be room for both he and La Stella. There’s always the DH spot, after all, though that has been filled well by the team’s surplus outfielders.
In other words, Oakland now has that problem of too many good players. Or, perhaps, enough depth for another trade before Monday’s deadline.
This deal potentially sets the stage for others - A’s have some extra bats if they want to move any.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) August 29, 2020