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Ronald Torreyes and Tommy La Stella by the numbers

A statistical look at the Cubs moves this week.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Ronald Torreyes lays down a bunt against the Rays
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Three days ago I’m relatively certain I’d never written a single word about Ronald Torreyes. In the last 72 hours I’ve written about him twice.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the Cubs‘ newly claimed middle infielder, and he was certainly a Yankees fan favorite, but there are a lot of interesting players that never rise to the level of another team’s blog. Case in point, I doubt I’ve ever written much about Lourdes Gurriel Jr. or Howie Kendrick either. It’s nothing personal, they just don’t really come up all that often here on Bleed Cubbie Blue.

Ronald Torreyes is now a Cub after he was claimed off waivers for cash considerations or a player to be named later. A day later the Cubs traded backup infielder, and pinch hitter extraordinaire, Tommy La Stella to the Angels. At this point it looks like Torreyes will take La Stella’s spot as the last man on the bench, so it’s worth taking a look at what he brings to the North Side of Chicago.

However, before I dive into some numbers, I have a confession to make. I’m more than a little bummed out that Cubs fans won’t get to see the return of Tommy La Stella’s prank war with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in Spring Training this year. After all, I was looking forward to another March of parking spot wars and bouncy castles:

But, the Addison Russell question made signing some infield depth a priority. And while La Stella was great in pinch hit situations, his defense left some things to be desired when injuries required he play for any length of time. Critically, La Stella doesn’t play shortstop and Torreyes does, so even if all things were equal having a backup who can play shortstop had to be a priority for the front office this season.

The thing is, all things aren’t really equal, and in looking at how Russell, La Stella and Torreyes compare, the Cubs moves this week become clear pretty quickly:

Russell - La Stella - Torreyes comparison

Player Age (in 2019) Team Control Through PA Avg OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Player Age (in 2019) Team Control Through PA Avg OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Addison Russell 25 2022 465 .250 .317 .340 80 1.4
Tommy LaStella 30 2021 192 .266 .340 .331 86 0.2
Ronald Torreyes 26 2022 102 .280 .294 .370 78 0.4
Select contract information and 2018 stats Fangraphs and Spotrac compiled by Sara Sanchez

In 2019 Russell will be 25 and Torreyes will be 26. Both are a lot younger than La Stella who will be in his age-30 season next year. Additionally, Russell and Torreyes both have one additional year of club control. Beyond that, while Torreyes doesn’t get on base as much as La Stella or Russell, he had a higher slugging percentage and batting average across limited at bats in 2018. His contract, offense and defensive flexibility just make him a better backup option for the Cubs than La Stella.

The bottom line is if the Cubs decide to tender Addison Russell by offering him a contract by tonight, Torreyes is still a better backup option than La Stella. If the Cubs non-tender Russell, Torreyes’ ability to play short is absolutely critical and the Cubs probably still need to add a piece in the offseason.

Tommy La Stella is one of the best pinch hitters in Cubs history and I’m going to miss his bat in key situations. I’m going to miss his uncanny knack for catcher’s interference. I’m going to miss hearing “Oh, What a Night” when he walked up to the plate. And I’m really going to miss the return of the bouncy castle. However, positional depth at shortstop was clearly a priority for the Cubs this offseason and they found it in Ronald Torreyes.