Back on July 29, the Cubs made a move that probably only caught the eye of their own fans and upcoming opponents when they activated Chris Coghlan from the disabled list and optioned utility infielder Tommy La Stella to Triple-A.
I thought it an odd move at the time, as the Cubs have so many players who can handle the outfield and La Stella was hitting .295/.388/.457. With options left, though, the Cubs were obviously trying to keep as many players as possible (Coghlan doesn’t have options and would have had to be designated for assignment) until rosters expand in September.
Only La Stella hasn’t reported to Triple-A Iowa. Tuesday, the Cubs placed him on the temporary inactive list. Cubs manager Joe Maddon discussed it a bit on 670 The Score on Tuesday (via CBS Chicago):
“We’ve been talking to him,” Maddon said on the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score. “I’ve texted and talked to him, and we’ve had other folks talk to him also. Right now, I don’t have any kind of conclusion for you honestly. He’s working out back near his home in New Jersey. He’s hitting, he’s running, those kinds of things. So we’re just waiting for him to decide exactly what he wants to do. Of course, in order to ameliorate the clubhouse, you can’t take him from there (in New Jersey) and bring him right back to the club. He’s probably going to have to settle and go back to Triple-A at some point if that’s what he wants to do.
“Listen, we all have different agendas in our life. We all interpret everything differently. Pretty much, the ball is literally in Tommy’s court right now. We love having him here. He’s a great teammate. He’s a very good player. Do we want to have him back? Absolutely, but pretty much, it’s his decision that he has to make for himself.”
And from our perspective, like I said, we want Tommy back. I think he’s really good. He’s a very good hitter. He’s a lot of fun to be around. But again, just doing what he’s doing right now is probably going to create a little bit more strain in the sense of regarding him coming back.”
Doesn’t that paint the picture of a player being angry with the demotion and refusing to report to the minors? That wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.
More conversations from Cubs’ brass on Tuesday, however, began to paint a different picture.
GM Jed Hoyer on La Stella’s absence: “It’s somewhat deeper than a level of frustration, but he’s healthy. It’s not a family issue.” #Cubs
— Sam Panayotovich (@spshoot) August 9, 2016
Deeper than a level of frustration? Is he thinking of just retiring?
La Stella actually told ESPN Chicago that he thought about retiring this past offseason, and it sounds like it’s still a possibility.
La Stella even said he would rather “step away” from the game then play for another team meaning a trade was out of the question. He doesn’t want to go anywhere.
“That would have been it,” he said. “I’m not going to go play for someone else. That’s not something I have any interest in doing. I’m here for a reason. This is where I want to be…I’m just waiting to hear back from the team and keeping up with all the workouts and training and hitting.”
“I’m not going to fault anyone for what they say or assume about the situation,” La Stella said. “I’m OK to step away. It’s something I’ve been preparing for, for a while. It’s an accumulation of things. With injuries and stuff like that. It’s a bunch of stuff that’s personal to me.”
Over on CSN Chicago, there’s a report that Dr. Ken Ravizza, the Cubs’ sports psychologist, has reached out to La Stella as well.
Basically, this all paints a picture that “player gets angry for being sent to the minors” would be a huge oversimplification. I’m sure that’s part of it, but not nearly all of it. There’s certainly more here, as Hoyer pointed out.
For the time being, La Stella says he’s working out and taking swings on a daily basis. He’s been a valuable lefty bat so far this season, and most of the Cubs’ regular bench bats are right-handers. It’ll be interesting to see this somewhat bizarre situation play out in the coming weeks.