La Stella excited to join SF's 'unique group'

Giants finalize three-year pact with master of plate discipline

February 5th, 2021

The Giants on Thursday officially announced they have signed infielder . His three-year, $18.75 million deal marks the longest guaranteed contract awarded by the club under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi.

That the Giants were willing to make the multiyear commitment to the 32-year-old veteran signaled their appreciation for his defensive versatility and elite plate discipline, two skills prized by Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris.

The left-handed-hitting La Stella delivered an All-Star campaign for the Angels in 2019, when he batted .295 with an .832 OPS and 16 home runs over 80 games before suffering a season-ending right tibia fracture. He returned last year to hit .281 with an .819 OPS and five homers over 55 games between the Angels and A’s.

Zaidi was most impressed by another part of La Stella’s stat line.

“I spent an unhealthy amount of time just staring at his 27 walks to 12 strikeout ratio from last year,” Zaidi said during a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. “That probably says more about me than him, although it does say a lot about him.

“I think, organizationally, we feel like there are benefits to this kind of plate discipline and at-bat quality that go beyond the player’s stat line. It makes it difficult for the pitcher. You get starting pitchers out of the game sooner. The guy on deck gets to see more pitches. All of those things, the ability to grind out at-bats, just lifts the entire offense. And that's one reason why we've been attracted to these kinds of guys.”

La Stella’s contract is backloaded, a function of “both player and team preference,” per Zaidi. La Stella will earn $2 million in 2021, $5.25 million in ’22 and $11.5 million in ’23. His deal features annual donations to the Giants Community Fund, including $10,000 in ’21, $26,250 in ’22 and $57,500 in ’23. 

La Stella said he’s looking forward to giving back to the Bay Area, a region he always enjoyed visiting as an opposing player. He became more familiar with the area during his month-long stint with the A’s last year and said he’s excited about having more opportunities to explore such nearby attractions as Muir Woods and Napa.

“San Francisco is where I wanted to be,” La Stella said. “So I’m very relieved we were able to get it done. The third year was important. I felt like wherever I went, I wanted to be able to be there for a few years and be a part of something.

“It’s a unique group. I think that was one of the reasons it was so intriguing to me. They’ve got a nice blend of guys who have been around, very accomplished players who won multiple championships and some younger players that are coming up and blossoming into great players.”

La Stella is expected to serve as a complement to the right-handed-hitting , and at second and third base, though he could see time at first, as well. Zaidi said continues to rehab from right heel surgery and is “a possibility but not a certainty” for Opening Day, making La Stella an option to fill in at first base.

“I would fully expect him to set a career high in plate appearances in 2021, barring anything unforeseen,” Zaidi said of La Stella. “That could just take his numbers to a different level because when you project out what he did in 2019 or 2020 over a full season, it's really elite-level production.”

Outfielder was designated for assignment as the Giants cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for La Stella. Basabe, claimed off waivers from the White Sox in August, impressed with his speed and went 2-for-14 over nine games with the Giants in 2020, but he was out of Minor League options and wasn’t expected to make the Opening Day roster.