Has David Bote Put Tommy La Stella Out of a Job?

It’s time to talk about David Bote and whether he has put Tommy La Stella out of a job. Just last week, our own Brendan Miller noted that Bote was leading the league in exit velocity. Then, last night, Bote pinch-hits a walk-off slam to beat the Nationals. Bote’s bat may regress, but dude can hit major league pitching.

Bote has the same positional versatility as La Stella, playing both second and third with the possibility to get some run in the outfield next season. Bote also has better defensive chops than La Stella, whose glove has always been the weak link in his game. It is telling that Joe Maddon (who is one of La Stella’s biggest fans) has largely gone with Bote in Kris Bryant’s absence.

La Stella is earning $950,000 this year and will likely get bumped up to somewhere between $1.3-1.8 million next year in his second round of arbitration. Bote will earn league minimum $555,000 next year and the two years beyond. While $1 million seems a trivial amount in light of a $200 million payroll, sometimes roster decisions are made for less.

One complicating factor is that the Cubs would not want to just release La Stella, who has a .278 AVG and a .361 OBP 0ver the last three years. Those solid numbers. Yet La Stella famously refused to report to AAA in 2016 and has been very candid that he would not want to play for any other team. Not many teams would give up much in trade for a player who might not report.

Speaking of payroll decisions, Cole Hamels’ option year is looking more likely with every start. Hamels pitched a gem Sunday night, going seven innings and giving up only one run on one and one walk while striking out nine. That effort was huge for a gassed bullpen after Jon Lester’s brief outing Saturday.

In his first three starts, Hamels has given up only two earned runs over 18 IP and he has looked sharp doing it. As I explained in an earlier post, picking up Hamels option only costs the Cubs $14 million in cash and cap space because the $6 million buyout is a sunk cost. that’s eminently reasonable for a fifth starter with Hamels’ pedigree, but it could perhaps have the Cubs looking to find greater value elsewhere on the roster.

Bote’s performance is the real driving force in his increased playing time, both now and in the future, but the financial considerations can’t be ignored.

Bonus Feature – Daydream Cubs: 1994

In a parallel universe where Moshe was transported back as GM of the 1981 Cubs, we rejoin the Daydream Cubs. For a full explanation, here is the original post. Click here for 1993, or here for a summary all drafts & rosters to date.

1994 Draft: (#) Player’s real-life selection round; AS= All-Star; GG = Gold Glove.

  • Round 1: A.J. Pierzynski (3) – C: AS (x2)
  • Round 2: Javier Vasquez (5) – SP: (AS (x1)
  • Round 3: Keith Foulke (9) – RP: AS (x1)

Keith Foulke, who will earn 20 WAR as the Daydream Cubs’ closer, salvages a very weak 1994 draft (I’m always surprised Foulke is not better known). But 1994 could have provided so much more bullpen help. Eric Gagne was available in the 30th round, but did not sign. Also, Mariano Rivera is sitting in AAA prior to his 1995 debut. If my rules allowed trades, I would offer the Yankees Kenny Lofton and Rod Beck after the season.

Meanwhile, the Daydream Cubs put up a very respectable 60 bWAR during the strike-shorted 1994 season. Off years from Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza, plus a weak final season from Scott Fletcher, prevent the total from going even higher.

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