The LaStella Legacy
It wasn't exactly A Day that Will Live in Infamy, but a year ago today the Cubs traded Tommy LaStella to the Angels for a PTBNL (who turned out to be LHRP Conor Lillis-White).
LaStella was one of the best pinch-hitters in the National League and had one of the best single-seasons of pinch-hitting in Cubs history in 2018 (312/396/416 with 5 2B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 2 HBP, 9/13 BB/K in 79 PA with an MLB-leading and Cubs single-season club record 24 pinch-hits), and then he hit a robust 295/346/488 with 16 HR in 80 games for LAA this past season (where he was the Angels' everyday 2B for the first half of the campaign, before missing the second half after suffering a broken leg on 7/2).
However, despite trading LaStella, the Cubs did have four of the better pinch-hitters in the National League (including two of the top six) in 2019.
Unfortunately, they also had five of the worst (including - THE - worst), which left them in the bottom third of the league overall in pinch-hitting
Cubs pinch-hitters in 2019 (sorted by PA, minimum 10 PA):
Tony Kemp: 290/421/548 with 1 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 HBP, 5/7 BB/K (38 PA combined HOU/CHC)
Daniel Descalso: 065/143/065 with 0 XBH, 1 RBI, 1 SF, 1 SH, 3/12 BB/K (36 PA)
David Bote: 304/407/435 with 3 2B, 4 RBI, 4/7 BB/K (27 PA)
Victor Caratini: 421/522/789 with 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 HBP, 3/5 BB/K (23 PA)
Albert Almora: 105/190/263 with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 HBP, 1/4 BB/K (21 PA)
Mark Zagunis: 176/333/176 with 3 RBI, 4/12 BB/K (21 PA)
Ian Happ: 375/421/813 with 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SF, 2/6 BB/K (19 PA)
Kyle Schwarber: 000/143/000 with 2/5 BB/K (14 PA)
Robel Garcia: 111/200/111/000 with 1/6 BB/K (10 PA)
Part of the value of bench players (especially in the N. L.) is the ability to pinch-hit (that is, hit "cold" of the bench), and the Cubs clearly had four guys who did that in 2019.
Of course other elements like positional versatility, defensive skill, and speed are factors in bench construction, too, but having reliable "bats off the bench" who can produce in the late innings can be the difference between winning or losing a close game.
Imagine how things might have been different in 2019 if the "All-American automatic out" that was Daniel Descalso is replaced on the bench by Tommy LaStella.
With the new 26-man roster rule scheduled to go into effect in 2020 (with the 26th man required to be a position-player), N. L. clubs will be better able to carry guys who can hit off the bench even if they don't provide any other value to the club (which is essentially LaStella's profile).
bradsbeard 11 hours 53 min ago (view)
Things won't get easier for him pitching outside of the former AT&T park, though Chase isn't the band box it was before they installed a humidor a couple years ago.
crunch 12 hours 49 min ago (view)
dbacks snag m.bumgarner for 5/85m (17m/yr).
didn't realize he'd be coming that cheaply. the longball stung him last year, but he was healthy and his stuff looked good when it wasn't flying over a fence.
crunch 1 day 14 hours ago (view)
MLB is very much swinging their power over minor league teams around.
tim815 1 day 15 hours ago (view)
Normally, it's because the minor fee they receive is of more value than they think they will be able to acquire later.
JustSayin' 1 day 16 hours ago (view)
My, the negotiations for a new comprehensive agreement between MLB and MiLB are sounding nasty all of a sudden! I'd be interested in other takes on this. It's easy to see the risks on the MiLB side. I wonder though, if MLB isn't playing with fire as far as the antitrust exemption goes? In case Trump isn't president in January, 2021, the MLB owners lose a friend. We've already heard from Sanders and Warren supporting MiLB on this -- which is pretty amazing, considering how many bigger problems this country has -- and one can guess where mayor Pete stands.
bradsbeard 1 day 22 hours ago (view)
I'm also thinking they really didn't anticipate losing two players in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 and wanted to have more flexibility to pick guys, and they maybe figured Carrera had a better shot to go unpicked. It is a little surprising that the talent rich Rays are the ones who grabbed him.
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 23 hours ago (view)
It's just strange because they had space. maybe they thought no one would have wanted him?
bradsbeard 2 days 7 hours ago (view)
Best I can think is that maybe he was going to be squeezed out of a starting role next year with 2019 draftees and other lower level pitching pushing up into A ball. Doesn't seem like a great reason, but the pitching in the system is getting more crowded each year.
crunch 2 days 15 hours ago (view)
i truly wonder why f.carrera wasn't more of a priority.
he throws straight up junk, but he's got great control and command over his pitchers. he's young enough that he could find some more velocity, too.
i mean, this is a management team that decided to trade for dan haren and kyle hendricks. they don't have an aversion to slow-tossing starters.
Dolorous Jon Lester 2 days 16 hours ago (view)
Has anyone else noticed James Norwood's picture on the Cubs top 30 prospects page is actually Brandon Kintzler?
Arizona Phil 2 days 18 hours ago (view)
It's always interesting to see how many players each MLB club protects on its AAA affiliate's 38-man reserve list on 11/20.
I'm not saying it absolutely and necessarily proves what a club thinks of its own prospects, but there are 38 slots available on a AAA reserve list, and if you leave 15 slots open, I think that does say something, especially when you don't lose anybody in either the MLB Phase or in the AAA Phase. (I'm looking at you, Seattle Mariners!)
Arizona Phil 2 days 19 hours ago (view)
HAGSAG: Instructs starts next month. The pitching lab operates year round, so guys are always coming & going.
Hagsag 2 days 21 hours ago (view)
Phil, when does the Instructional program begin? Are there pitchers in the pitching lab now?
cubbies.4ever 3 days 8 hours ago (view)
Just to continue my conspiracy theory that Theo has a requirement you have TJS to pitch for the Cubs Trevor Megill had it in 2013. The Cubs must have a support group for pitchers who have had TJS.
Arizona Phil 3 days 10 hours ago (view)
After losing two players off the Iowa reserve list in the Major League Phase and selecting four players in the AAA Phase, the Iowa reserve list has one slot open, so now would be an excellent time to try and outright C. D. Pelham to AAA.
Keep in mind that he can't elect free-agency if he's outrighted, and if he is outrighted, he won't be a minor league free-agent until post-2021.
And if he gets claimed off waivers? No big deal.
Arizona Phil 3 days 10 hours ago (view)
LHSP Faustino Carrera and 2B Carlos Sepulveda were among the first players signed by the Cubs out of Mexico in 2014-15. The Cubs ended up signing more than two dozen more Mexican players over the next three years.