SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi heard from his old Oakland executive counterparts Billy Beane and David Forst just how much Tommy La Stella meant to the AL West champion Athletics during the 2020 stretch run.
Zaidi could follow the veteran infielder’s success from close by, too, right across San Francisco Bay in his new gig with the Giants.
Praised for his plate discipline, the versatile La Stella completed an $18.75 million, three-year contract with San Francisco on Thursday, giving the club a reliable left-handed hitter with a track record of getting on base.
“San Francisco is where I wanted to be, so I’m very relieved we were able to get it done,” La Stella said. “The third year was important. I felt like wherever I went I wanted to be able to be there for a few years and to be a part of something.”
La Stella received the first three-year contract given by the Giants since Zaidi came aboard from the NL West rival Dodgers in November 2018.
The 32-year-old La Stella was a key contributor for the A’s last season after the 2019 All-Star got traded by the Los Angeles Angels in late August.
“Obviously I know the guys in Oakland really well,” said Zaidi, Giants’ president of baseball operations who spent 10 years with the A’s before departing for the Dodgers in November 2014. “Talked to them during the year, they were thrilled to get him in the trade that they made and I heard how excited they were about the job he did with them, less once the season was over and he was a free agent. And at that point it’s not an appropriate conversation to have.”
Zaidi values versatility, and La Stella figures to provide it. He played 33 games at second base during last year’s shortened 60-game schedule, 10 at first, six at third and another nine as designated hitter.
“Tommy has a rare offensive profile. The combination of excellent plate discipline and contact skills and some power is one we value,” manager Gabe Kapler wrote in a text message. “Tommy was obviously a key piece of Oakland’s run last year, and between the Angels and A’s, we saw the competitiveness up close. What people may not know is how Tommy constantly looks for the best way for him to get to and stay at his personal peak performance level. It’s as good as any player out there. His attention to detail has put him in this sought-after position.”
Kapler and La Stella had an extensive chat before the signing and connected right away. La Stella considers Kapler someone he can learn from at this stage.
La Stella is set to earn $2 million this season, $5.25 million in 2022 and $11.5 million in 2023. The contract includes La Stella making yearly donations to the Giants Community Fund of $10,000 this year, $26,250 in `22 and $57,500 in ’23.
Zaidi said such charitable contributions are becoming more common written into contracts and, “Very thankful that it was something Tommy was willing to do and speaks to not just his generous nature but his commitment to being part of this community.”
La Stella said the club approached him with the idea and he was eager to make his mark in the community, some of the details which are still in the works.
La Stella batted .281 last season between the Angels and A’s with five home runs, 14 doubles and two triples. His .370 on-base percentage helped make him one of the hardest players to strike out among qualified players with just 12 Ks in 228 plate appearances.
“I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time just staring at his 27 walk to 12 strikeout ratio from last year. That probably says more about me than him although it does say a lot about him.”
La Stella could be slotted into any of the top four spots in the batting order.
“I feel and 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,” Zaidi said. “It makes it difficult for the pitcher, you can 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. That’s one reason we’ve been attracted to these kinds of guys and want to create that kind of offensive culture.”
San Francisco went 29-31 last year in Kapler’s first season, missing a playoff berth on the season’s final day with a 5-4 loss to playoff-bound rival San Diego.
To open room for La Stella on the 40-man roster, San Francisco designated outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe for assignment.
Zaidi said San Francisco would look to add a lefty hitter for the outfield, and hours later the club announced it had acquired LaMonte Wade Jr. from the Minnesota Twins for right-hander Shaun Anderson.