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Giants nearing deal with Tommy La Stella; A’s 2020 middle infield is gone

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Semien and La Stella both find new homes in the same week

SFChronicleAsSoxPlayoffs Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Entering the winter, Oakland A’s fans knew that the team’s strong middle infield from 2020 was probably gone via free agency. Now that likelihood has become a reality.

The San Francisco Giants “are close to a deal” with free agent Tommy La Stella, reports Alex Pavlovic of NBCS. It’s a three-year contract, per Jeff Passan of ESPN, for “around” $19.5 million total, per Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. The signing is still pending a physical before becoming official.

The A’s acquired La Stella midway through last summer to shore up their second base position, and he was brilliant at the plate in 27 games. Offensively he was a perfect fit, providing the contact skills, plate discipline, and left-handed bat that the lineup desperately needed, and more than making up for his subpar defense.

La Stella was a productive player who made sense on Oakland’s roster. He reportedly liked it here, and the team liked him, and the fans did too. Bringing him back would have made a lot of sense.

However, the A’s appear to have zero money to spend this winter, between reports to that effect as well as the observable fact that they’ve spent zero money so far despite having multiple roster holes with just three weeks to go until spring training. La Stella would have cost more than zero dollars, making it not a match.

Initial news of this signing came Tuesday, just hours after reports that longtime shortstop Marcus Semien signed with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year contract. That means the A’s are starting from scratch in the middle infield in 2021, with Chad Pinder, Tony Kemp, Sheldon Neuse, Vimael Machin, and Nate Orf available as in-house options for the 2B and SS positions.

Hot takes

I’m not as upset about this one as I was about Semien.

I wanted La Stella back, badly. But I assumed he could be had on a two-year deal, which is also what MLB Trade Rumors predicted for him. That shorter-term nature was one of the appeals for me, especially as he turns 32 next weekend.

Turns out it required a third guaranteed year, and I don’t know if I was willing to go that far. The average annual salary is quite reasonable, and maybe in a normal winter the A’s could have lured him with a slightly higher AAV over just two years, but I didn’t need them to go as high as the 3yr/$20m range. Wouldn’t have complained if they had, but also not complaining that they didn’t.

La Stella was my top offseason target because he might be available at a bargain price while offering maximum impact per dollar. But I understand why he didn’t turn out to be affordable, because his demand was higher than I anticipated. This is the exact opposite of Semien’s situation, in which Semien should have been unattainable but instead slipped back within the A’s means on a one-year deal and they missed the gift-wrapped chance to unexpectedly keep him.

Say it with me one last time, Athletics Nation: STEEEEEEELLLLLAAAAAAA!!!

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Extra note of annoyance: Did the Giants even need a second baseman? Last year they played Donovan Solano there and he won the Silver Slugger, following up a nice half-season in 2019 — a late-bloomer in his early-30s just like La Stella. They also have veterans entrenched at every other infield position, and no DH spot. So, the Giants just signed a free agent to push a reigning Silver Slugger winner to a platoon role or the bench. Must be nice.