Where Tommy La Stella fits after Giants brought Joc Pederson back


What Giants bringing Pederson back means for La Stella originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- The start of the Giants offseason largely has been about what to do with the veterans on the 2022 team.

The front office extended the qualifying offer to make sure Joc Pederson is back, but let Evan Longoria go. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has said multiple times this offseason that he plans on keeping in contact with a rehabbing Brandon Belt, but Belt isn't the only veteran infielder who faces uncertainty about his 2023 home over the coming months.

Tommy La Stella played just 60 games and went home to rehab before last season ended. While Pederson is an outfielder, his return may have a bigger impact on La Stella than anyone else.

Pederson was one of the worst defensive left fielders in baseball last year and, as they aim to get more athletic and much better defensively, the Giants are best suited with Pederson serving as their primary DH in 2023. That means La Stella's only meaningful path to being an option is staying on the dirt.

"It's really important for Tommy to be able to play the field, to play not just first, but second and third, as well, which he's done for most of his career," Zaidi said on Tuesday. "That's going to be really important for Tommy, for him to feel and for us to feel like he can man those positions and have that kind of multi-position infielder role on our team and not just be the DH."

La Stella primarily served as the DH last season, making just nine starts in the field and only two at second base, where the Giants will need a left-handed option next season. He didn't move well and the new shift rules will put an even greater emphasis on range, but the Giants are hopeful that La Stella is better equipped to play infield as he gets further away from two Achilles surgeries.

At the start of the offseason it was hard to picture the Giants carrying both Pederson and La Stella in 2023, but La Stella is owed $11.5 million in the final year of his contract, a pretty significant number to try to move or release. There is plenty of time to find a trade partner, but for now, Pederson and La Stella are both on the roster, and the Giants are hopeful that both are better defensively next season.

They'll have to be given the current roster construction, and Zaidi said the early reports are encouraging.

"I don't think he ever felt quite right," he said of La Stella. "We're continuing to monitor his offseason. The reports are really positive. He feels really good."

-- Jason Vosler had one of the strangest seasons in the organization in 2022. Vosler played 36 big league games and posted a .265/.342/.469 slash line, which was way out in front of his .242/.311/.433 line in 94 Triple-A games. In a hitter-friendly league, he struggled to find consistency, but just about every time the Giants called him up, he came through. Even some Giants people were baffled by the disparity.

Vosler was one of seven players DFA'd on Tuesday to clear out roster spots, a move that was telegraphed by two others. The Giants added Isan Diaz to their 40-man roster last week and on Tuesday they traded for Brett Wisely. Like Vosler, those two hit left-handed, but they bring more defensive versatility and both have shortstop experience.

Zaidi said it would have been difficult to carry all three on the 40-man throughout the offseason and they decided to look at the new options. Hopefully Vosler gets a good opportunity elsewhere; over two years when he seemingly spent half his life on the taxi squad, he always had a great attitude.

-- The most experienced player DFA'd on Tuesday was left-handed reliever Jarlin Garcia, who had a 2.84 ERA in three seasons for the Giants. He had some notable struggles in 2022, but overall, Garcia got a ton of outs for the Giants after coming over from the Marlins and he saved other relievers with some lengthy outings.

"Jarlin was another really tough one," Zaidi said. "He's done a really really nice job for us over the last three years and is just a great person in addition to his on field contributions."

Garcia has been effective but he was due another raise in arbitration and was hurt a bit by the fact that the Giants simply can't run it back with a bullpen that killed them at times. Camilo Doval, John Brebbia and Tyler Rogers are already guaranteed of being back, but the Giants want to lean more heavily on Scott Alexander from the left side and also give opportunities to Thomas Szapucki and Alex Young. Lefty Sam Long remains on the roster, too.

"Some of it for us is honestly just changing the mix in the bullpen," Zaidi said.

Garcia doesn't turn 30 until next year. He should have a pretty easy time finding that next job.

-- The Giants claimed two catchers recently and neither lasted a week on the 40-man. Adding catching depth behind Joey Bart and Austin Wynns remains a priority.

"You just don't want to be exposed once you get to the (season)," Zaidi said. "Some of our better catching prospects are probably a year or two away from being able to even operate in that up-and-down role."

The organization's two best catching prospects -- Patrick Bailey and Adrian Sugastey -- were in A-ball last year.

-- One of Scott Harris' first moves as president of baseball operations for the Tigers was to add a phenomenal name to his new organization:

It was appropriate that after all the cash deals they made together for the Giants, Zaidi and Harris would make one as their first transaction. Zaidi said the Giants had too big a crowd of Triple-A position players. Nobody on the outside would know that better than their former GM.

"Scott is being opportunistic already," Zaidi said. "I wouldn't expect anything less."

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