Where in the World is Cubs’ Tommy La Stella?

He’s not ransacking Pakistan or running scams in Scandinavia. There’s no sign of him in Chicago and he’s not in Des Moines either. When Tommy La Stella was optioned to AAA, he was given 72 hours to report to the Iowa Cubs.

Three 3 AM’s have come and gone since that deadline passed, but 3 AM is still nowhere to be found. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers is reportedly scouring the globe in search of his muse. The Des Moines Register’s Tommy Birch reported on Wednesday that the Cubs had granted their utility infielder additional time* to report due to personal reasons and that I-Cubs manger Marty Pevey had no information as to exactly when his new charge would arrive. As of Thursday, no additional details were available.

I’m not sure what the catch-all “personal reasons” means, but my initial reaction was that it’s a euphemism for “pissed off about being replaced on the roster by a dude who’s toeing the Mendoza Line.” Joe Maddon was pretty clear that La Stella wasn’t pleased when he found out that he was being optioned in order to make room for Chris Coghlan.

“Not well,” Maddon said when asked how La Stella had taken the demotion. “And he shouldn’t take it well, honestly. It’s an unusual moment we’re in right now when we have so many guys. These are hard decisions. Guys are not going to like them. It’s just a part of the rules and how they are constructed in our game that forces you into difficult moments.”

[beautifulquote align=”full” cite=””]At the same time, if he really is stomping off and failing to report, it seems more than a little douchey.[/beautifulquote]

La Stella, who had been slashing .295/.388/.457 while backing up second and third base, looked like a perfect lefty bench bat for the Cubs. Coghlan, who is slashing .200/.368/.289 while platooning in the corner outfield spots, hasn’t exactly been what you’d call a sparkplug. I get that the Cubs may have wanted some extra depth in the outfield, which enables Kris Bryant to spend more time at his natural position, but I certainly can’t blame La Stella for being heated.

At the same time, if he really is stomping off and failing to report, it seems more than a little douchey. Look at Albert Almora, who was sent back to Iowa the day after he got married. If anyone had a reason to take some extra time or to be upset about his circumstances, it’s that guy. Instead, he’s embracing the situation and looking forward to getting another chance to prove himself at the MLB level. Assuming there’s nothing more serious at the root of La Stella’s delay, his absence is curious at best.

Whatever the reason, Iowa’s loss is (reportedly) the Jersey Shore’s gain as the Garden State native collects his thoughts. Or maybe he’s down in Myrtle Beach celebrating his alma mater’s College World Series victory. Wouldn’t that be a healthy slice of irony, him avoiding one Cubs affiliate while hanging out in the back yard of another? Again, I can’t blame him for choosing the Atlantic coast over the banks of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers.

I just hope wherever he is, La Stella’s not alone. I’d hate to have to think, “Baby, it’s 3 AM, he must be lonely.”

***Update…sort of***

“If ever,” huh? Speculation is a dirty word and those tweets are nine months pregnant with its child. I’ll let you draw more specific conclusions on your own, but my first thought is that this information seems to remove the possibility that La Stella’s extended absence has been sanctioned by the team.

And for those of you interested in the potential service-time implications (while it’s highly unlikely, could the team have made this move with TLS’s MLB tenure in mind?), check out the following from Dabynsky:


I’ll try to keep providing context and updates as they become available.

***Quasi-update #2***

While Yasiel Puig reported to Principal Park Sunday, Tommy La Stella did not. Puig was there to play for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Los Angeles’ AAA club, who were in town to play the I-Cubs. According to Tommy Birch, La Stella is still home in New Jersey. Aside from Joe Maddon kind of dancing around the issue the other day, the Cubs aren’t sharing any specifics. Nor are they required to.

[beautifulquote align=”full” cite=””]Maddon said he expected TLS to be back with the team in the near future.[/beautifulquote]

That might sound weird coming from someone who’s speculating on the matter, but I don’t believe I’ve got a right to know what the missing player is thinking. Though he was understandably coy in his explanation, Maddon did say that he expected TLS to be back with the team in the near future and I-Cubs skipper Marty Pevey cited the amorphous “family business.” Let’s hope that’s the case and that things all get worked out here soon. If La Stella wants to address the matter at that point, so be it.

I still feel it’s all a bit strange and uncalled for (perhaps “douchey” was a bit strong, but I thought it’d be disingenuous to retroactively edit it out of the post), but I don’t know what went on behind closed doors.

***Update 3***

While there hadn’t been much clarity to the situation aside from reports that La Stella had gotten the Cubs’ permission to work out on his own instead of reporting to Iowa, it looks like the smoke is starting to clear. There’s been a lot of spin involved here, but my initial suspicions/conclusions from last week appear to have been confirmed by everything that’s been coming out recently.

[beautifulquote align=”full” cite=””]Now it’s starting to look like the Ian Stewart situation.[/beautifulquote]

Carrie Muskat’s recent report seems to be throwing a little shade without coming right out and saying it.

La Stella apparently has made a deal with Cubs management to work out but not report to Iowa. He wasn’t happy about being optioned to make room for Chris Coghlan, and he was given more than the normal 72 hours to report. Manager Joe Maddon said La Stella was taking batting practice somewhere, just not with the Minor League team. You’re right — he has yet to appear in a game with Iowa. Give Justin Grimm credit; he was optioned July 30 and pitched for Iowa on Aug. 1 before returning to the Cubs when Jason Hammel was placed on the bereavement list.

And Maddon added a bit more clarity to those statements whe he appeared on 670 The Score Tuesday afternoon:

Given all that we know at this point, I feel pretty comfortable sticking with my initial categorization of La Stella’s actions as “douchey.” I know that this was a tough deal for him and that he’s not the first person to get heated over a demotion at work, but skulking back to New Jersey and refusing to accept an assignment is a bad look. Until Maddon’s comments, it looked as though the Cubs were really trying to avoid throwing their guy under the bus, either to keep their arms open to the Prodigal Son or to maintain his trade value.

Now it’s starting to look like the Ian Stewart situation. Well, aside from TLS not being an abject failure on the diamond and avoiding bashing his team via Twitter off it. I’m not sure what to do with all the talk of permission, though that was all just a game of semantics in the first place. Now that we’re past the spin doctoring, however, I think the odds on La Stella returning are pretty long.

The Cubs can’t let him come back until he’s done performed sufficient pennance and he may feel strongly enough that he doesn’t want to come back regardless of the potential for a playoff roster spot. Remeber when TLS was in there for the Wild Card game and he came through? Maddon has faith in the guy as a ballplayer, but I’d guess some of the personal investment has been eroded. This probably isn’t over, so stay tuned, I guess.

***Update #4***

So either La Stella is trying to paint the Cubs into a corner or he’s trying to get back into their good graces. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter since publicly declaring your intentions to retire would drastically reduce your trade value. This thing just gets curiouser and curiouser.


*It’s common practice for the parent club to allow a player additional time to report when the minor league affiliate to which he’s been assigned is on the road. In this case, the I-Cubs were playing a three-game set in Omaha that ended on 8/2 (the 72-hour deadline passed on 8/1). So the general expectation was that La Stella would have joined them on 8/3 in Des Moines.

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