At 54-57, the SF Giants currently sit 7.5 games behind the San Diego Padres for the third and final Wild Card spot. The narrative is beginning to shift to next season and how the front office will address the roster in the offseason. One question mark is what they will do with Tommy La Stella?
What do the SF Giants do with infielder Tommy La Stella in 2023?
The veteran infielder signed a three-year, $18.75 million pact prior to the 2021 season. The expectation was that La Stella would see time at both second base and third base while being a high-performing platoon hitter against righties.
That has not come to fruition as La Stella has battled injuries and ineffectiveness since putting on a Giants uniform. He sustained a hamstring strain last season that knocked him out for over two months and he underwent surgery on his left Achillies last offseason. That caused him to miss the beginning of this season.
It has been an inconsistent and frustrating tenure for La Stella. When he has been healthy, he has slashed .252/.301/.401 (93 wRC+) with a 6.2 percent walk rate against a 12.6 percent strikeout rate while being worth 0.1 fWAR in a Giants uniform.
The Giants knew that they were not getting a power hitter, but they hoped that La Stella would still serve as an on-base threat. However, the plate discipline that he had demonstrated earlier in his career has disappeared with San Francisco.
The 33-year-old infielder was brought in to handle right-handed pitching but he has slashed .253/.303/.415 (97 wRC+) in 345 plate appearances against righties since 2021. This is not terrible production, but the Giants targeted offense-over-defense with the addition of La Stella and he has not lived up to that role.
This issue is compounded by the fact that the left-handed bat has not played much in the field in 2022. After offseason surgery, the Giants coaching staff seemed reluctant to use La Stella in the field as he has seen a total of 72 innings on defense. Most of that work has come recently, so it could be a sign that he is returning to full health.
The Giants do not necessarily need to make a decision on La Stella. He is owed $11.5 million with a cap hit of $6.25 million in 2023. That type of contract is movable, but likely only in a swap of bad contracts. The front office lightly shopped the infielder at the trade deadline, but they were, not surprisingly, able to find any takers.
It feels like a change of scenery is needed for both team and player. The Giants need to find a way to upgrade the roster and targeting a left-handed-hitting infielder feels like low-hanging fruit. Plus, it might be in La Stella's best interest as well.
The Giants' struggles extend well beyond one player. They will have a lot of decisions to make in the offseason including how to better optimize the players currently under contract. In the case of La Stella, it is starting to feel like he will not finish out his contract in San Francisco.