The Angels parted ways with an All-Star from last year but received in return a former top prospect who could help them in the future on Friday, as they traded second baseman Tommy La Stella to the A’s for infielder Franklin Barreto.
La Stella, an All-Star for the first time last year, was seen giving his teammates hugs in the dugout during the bottom of the second inning of the Angels' series-opening 3-2 win against the Mariners at Angel Stadium. He is an impending free agent, and the Angels (11-22) are expected to be sellers. The Trade Deadline is at 1 p.m. PT on Monday.
“It's a trade that was difficult on a personal level with Tommy,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “We know that the 2019 season was emotional for a lot of people, and Tommy was a total pro and is an elite professional. The A's are getting a heck of a player for the month of September. But we're excited to get to get Franklin here. He's a young kid that still has a lot of years ahead of him and hopefully can kind of bridge that gap between potential and performance at the Major League level, and perform closer to his Minor League numbers."
La Stella, 31, had a breakout year with the Angels in 2019 and has been just as solid this season, hitting .273/.371/.475 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 28 games. Last year, he batted .295/.346/.486 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs in 80 games, missing most of the second half with a fractured right tibia. His previous career high in homers was five, as he hit a combined 10 homers in his first five years in the Majors with the Braves and Cubs.
“I told [Billy] a while ago that Tommy would probably be on our radar,” Athletics general manager David Forst said. “He’s a really good fit for us right now. One of the best contact rates in the league and a real threat from the left side. We had gone back and forth for a little while and we’re excited to have Tommy and add him to our lineup.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon was also La Stella’s manager in Chicago from 2015-18 and was seen giving La Stella a hug in the dugout.
“Tommy has a great heart, a great level of social awareness -- beyond being a good friend and a great baseball player,” Maddon said. “Under these circumstances, where Tommy’s at here, it’s a situation where it was the right thing to do. We’re going to miss him. Those at-bats and that hitting ability will be dearly missed. Plus, he’s a big part of any clubhouse.”
La Stella had been seeing time at both second base and first base, making 14 starts at second and 10 at first. David Fletcher will replace La Stella as the primary second baseman, while Jared Walsh was recalled on Friday and will serve as the backup first baseman to Albert Pujols.
Barreto, 24, is a former top prospect and is under club control through 2024, though he is out of Minor League options. He should get some playing time in the middle infield, especially after Luis Rengifo was optioned to the alternate training site on Friday. Barreto was ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects each year from 2015-18, but he hasn't had much of an opportunity with Oakland. This year, he's played in 15 games, going 0-for-10 at the plate.
He's batted .180 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in 95 games with the A's over parts of the last four seasons. But he’s had much greater success in the Minors with a career slash line of .289/.352/.482 with 112 stolen bases in 631 games, including batting .285/.356/.505 in 290 games at Triple-A.
“Franklin fits us now and also moving forward,” Eppler said. “We still have a roster to think about in the future, as well. We were excited to be able to get someone that we can pencil in to move all around the diamond next year. We have more players that are nearing free agency, as well. So we have to weigh all of that calculus as we move forward.”
The Angels have a few other players who are set to be free agents after the season and could be dealt, including shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Jason Castro. The club’s biggest need remains pitching -- and Eppler is hopeful he’ll be able to address it.
"A lot of teams are in it, so they're gonna be a little bit more reluctant to trade away Major League pitching," Eppler said. “You're gonna have to do that on the prospect front. We've called on pitchers, we'll continue to do that and talk about those things. We'll just have to keep having that dialogue and see if something can manifest."