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Cubs deal La Stella to Angels; roster at 39

November 29, 2018

Cubs manager Joe Maddon once quipped that Thomas La Stella could wake up at 3 a.m. ready to hit any pitcher in baseball. Now, the club's longtime pinch-hitting specialist will have to adjust to a new time zone.On Thursday, the Cubs traded La Stella to the Angels in exchange for

Cubs manager Joe Maddon once quipped that Thomas La Stella could wake up at 3 a.m. ready to hit any pitcher in baseball. Now, the club's longtime pinch-hitting specialist will have to adjust to a new time zone.
On Thursday, the Cubs traded La Stella to the Angels in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations. The move came one day after Chicago acquired utility infielder Ronald Torreyes from the Yankees for the same return agreement and a day ahead of the 7 p.m. CT deadline for teams to tender contracts to any unsigned players on the 40-man roster.
"I'd like to thank the Chicago Cubs for an amazing experience over the last four years -- a special group of people who taught me about so much more than just the game of baseball and who supported me when they easily could have chosen not to," La Stella expressed in a statement. "Thank you to the fans and everyone in the organization, especially to the boys, being around you guys was some of the best times I've had playing the game. And lastly, thank you to my new team, the Angels. I'm excited for this new opportunity and can't wait to get it started."
La Stella -- eligible for salary arbitration this offseason -- was a non-tender possibility with the Cubs, whose roster now sits at 39. The rest of Chicago's arbitration class includes Javier Baez, Kristopher Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Kyle Hendricks, Mike Montgomery, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Torreyes. Among that group, Russell is also a candidate to be non-tendered, which would make him a free agent.
La Stella, who will turn 30 in January, spent the past four seasons with the Cubs, hitting .273 with a .753 OPS in 303 games. His 44 career hits as a pinch-hitter are the fourth most in Cubs history, and he filled that role admirably with a .288 average (44-for-153).
Last season, La Stella set a single-season Cubs record with 24 pinch-hits and hit at a .312 clip with a .398 on-base percentage in 77 pinch-hit at-bats. The previous club record of 20 pinch-hits in one year was shared by Thad Bosley (1985) and Dave Clark (1997). On Aug. 30, La Stella delivered a pinch-hit home run -- a go-ahead, two-run homer that gave Chicago a 5-4 win over the Braves.
La Stella also offered depth at second and third base. Last season, he made his first career pitching appearance with 1 1/3 innings on July 20 against the Cardinals.
Torreyes will be in the mix to take La Stella's spot on the Cubs' bench, offering more versatility as a defender all around the infield. Whether Chicago opts to retain Russell or not, the team was in need of improved depth behind the starting options at second and shortstop.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.