Brewers: Could INF Tommy La Stella Be a Free Agent Target?

Tommy La Stella, Oakland A's (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Tommy La Stella, Oakland A's (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

The Brewers will likely be shopping for a third baseman this offseason. Could they take a look at free agent infielder Tommy La Stella?

To put it lightly, the Brewers were a bit of a mess all across the diamond offensively in 2020. But one of the biggest black holes when it came to offensive production on the season was at the third base position.

Milwaukee went into the 2020 season with a pretty clear strategy at third base. Jedd Gyorko, a righty, and Eric Sogard, a lefty, were each signed to one-year contracts with 2021 options with many expecting them to platoon with each other at third base.

That was largely how the season began, but neither provided much punch while manning the position. Sogard finished with a disappointing .209/.281/.278 slash line while Gyorko rebounded from a slow start but provided most of his increased production over at first base.

Some other players got in the mix at the position, but in the end, third base produced just a .200/.279/.295 slash line, a 23.3% strikeout rate, and just a 56 wRC+ plus for the Brewers in 2020. Some thought there was an off chance for Gyorko to come back in 2021 to help improve those numbers at third, but ultimately both he and Sogard had their options for next year declined.

Unless the Brewers decide to go with Luis Urias full time at third base, which seems unlikely, they’ll need to bring in some help at the hot corner. If they do indeed go that direction, one name that would make a lot of sense to bring in would be free agent infielder Tommy La Stella.

La Stella spent the 2020 season playing for both the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland A’s, putting up solid numbers with each team. Not only would he likely provide an upgrade at the position, even if he didn’t play full time, he would help in statistical categories where the Brewers need improvement.

He may not be one of the most popular third base names out there, but Tommy La Stella is just the type of player the Brewers like to bring in.

La Stella isn’t exactly the Mike Moustakas type of player that fans might be longing to see again at the third base position. Still, there are a lot of reasons why he would make sense to sign and why he would help improve a disappointing Brewer offense from 2020.

An 8th round pick of the Braves in 2011, La Stella debuted for them in 2014 and has had steady production ever since. He has a solid .274/.349/.405 slash line for his career and hasn’t had a negative FanGraphs WAR in any of his MLB seasons.

2019 saw La Stella take an even further step forward. He set career highs almost across the board offensively as a member of the Angels and earned his first All-Star nomination. Unfortunately, a foul ball off his leg in early July knocked out almost the entire remainder of his season, resulting in just 80 games played.

2020 saw him pick up where he left off with the Angels, starting the season with a .845 OPS and four homers in 28 games before being dealt to the A’s right before the trade deadline. His production didn’t dip much in his new home and he finished the season with a combined .281/.370/.449 slash line.

On top of providing a steady bat in general, La Stella has been extremely good at avoiding the strikeout over his career, something the Brewers very much did not do in 2020. La Stella has a career 10.6% strikeout rate and he had the lowest in all of baseball last year with a miniscule 5.3%.

The main question is how comfortable La Stella might be playing a large amount of games at third. His primary position for his career has been at second base and last year he played 33 games at second compared to just six at third. For his career, the split is 226 games at second to 125 at third.

Still, there have been seasons in the past where he has played more games at third than second. Plus, we all know that Brewers manager Craig Counsell loves multi-functional infielders and he could very well use La Stella at both positions depending on the day.

The biggest problem could be the price tag. La Stella is projected to earn a contract somewhere in the $7MM to $8MM range in AAV, which could be too much for Milwaukee’s expected tight payroll situation in 2021.

Next. MLB Trade Rumors Predicts Two Free Agents to Brewers. dark

Either way, the Brewers need to figure out a solution for third base in 2021. If they’re planning to devote some of the money they free up toward the position, there would be plenty worse options than La Stella.