Angels trade infielder Tommy La Stella to Athletics for infielder Franklin Barreto
The Angels traded infielder Tommy La Stella to the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
It became apparent that La Stella was on the move when he emerged from the clubhouse during the second inning of the Angels’ 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium. He began shaking hands and embracing teammates and coaches in the dugout. He even left the dugout to hug players who were sitting in the stands.
La Stella, whom the Angels acquired from the Chicago Cubs ahead of the 2019 season, enjoyed a breakout in Anaheim. He became a first-time All-Star last year at second base and this season became a reliable option at first base.
La Stella, a pending free agent, goes from the last-place Angels, who improved to 11-22 with Friday’s victory, to the A’s, who are atop the American League West at 22-10.
In exchange, the Angels will receive infielder Franklin Barreto, a 24-year-old from Venezuela. He hasn’t received much opportunity to play since making his major league debut in 2017. He is batting .180 over 95 career games.
Players on the Angels and Seattle Mariners stood together and locked arms during the national anthem before the Angels’ 3-2 victory at Angel Stadium.
Barreto, who is out of options but under team control through 2024, likely will receive plenty of playing time with the Angels.
“His minor league numbers were a little closer to average,” general manager Billy Eppler said in a videoconference call. “But we’re just expecting him to be able to to take a professional at-bat, know what the situation is, when the situation calls for contact, to be able to implement that. He is a good defender, he’s a tremendous runner. He adds a number of elements to our position player group.”
The addition of Barreto didn’t address the Angels’ primary need — starting pitching. But Eppler, who is in the final year of his contract, said it has been difficult to engage with clubs on that front. Contending teams also are trying to snap up pitchers for the stretch run and postseason.
Barreto, chosen for multiple minor league all-star games including in the Arizona Fall League, was an intriguing alternative.
He signed with Toronto as an international free agent for $1.45 million in 2012 but was traded to the Athletics two years later. Over five minor league seasons in the Athletics’ system, Barreto batted .287 with 111 doubles, 20 triples, 76 homers and 265 RBIs. He also went 73 for 104 in stolen-base attempts.
“He’s a good-looking kid,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I haven’t seen a whole lot of him. I know that [bench coach Mike] Gallego had seen them in the minor leagues and Mike likes him a lot. So, I know there’s a lot to look forward to with him.”
La Stella came to the Angels in an under-the-radar trade and emerged as a steady contributor. In 2019, he batted .300, belted 16 homers and drove in 44 runs before fouling a ball off his shin a week before the All-Star game. The right tibia fracture required more than two months of recovery. He completed his rehabilitation in time to play two of the final three games of the season.
La Stella spent the offseason working with Angels strength coach Lee Fiocchi and improving his flexibility. After the coronavirus outbreak forced sports to shut down in March, La Stella returned to the same schedule he kept in the winter.
“He earned his stripes last year,” said Maddon, who used La Stella as a pinch-hitter during their time in Chicago, earlier this month.
La Stella is batting .273 with an .845 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 14 RBIs in 28 games this season. He has four homers, including a walk-off against San Francisco on Aug. 17. It was the first of his career.
Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts narrated a profound and pointed video that was shared by MLB’s social media accounts on Jackie Robinson Day.
La Stella had been searching for his power stroke. He wasn’t elevating pitches as he did last year and his average launch angle had dipped slightly to 11.9 degrees.
La Stella’s launch angle is now 16.2 degrees, three degrees higher than last year.
Andrew Heaney, who pitched 7 ⅔ innings Friday for the win, said it hurt to see La Stella traded because it reminded him of the team’s first-half failures.
“It kind of puts into perspective the season that we’re having,” Heaney said. “When you’re shipping guys out, that’s never a good feeling. A little bit of introspection. You’re trying to look at it like, ‘[Man] if I would’ve just pitched better, maybe my teammate would still be here.’ But for him, I’m happy that he’s gonna go to a team that I’m pretty sure right now has the best record in American League and he’s gonna get to hopefully play in the playoffs and keep doing his thing. It’s bittersweet.”
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