Mariners sign veteran utility player Tommy La Stella, DFA Sheffield

Jan 19, 2023, 4:15 PM | Updated: 4:25 pm
Mariners Tommy La Stella...
Tommy La Stella hits a sacrifice fly for the Giants against the Twins on Aug. 27, 2022. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The Mariners have filled one of the last remaining holes on their roster for the 2023 season, signing veteran utility player Tommy La Stella to a one-year major league contract.

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Seattle announced the move Thursday afternoon. To make room for La Stella on the 40-man roster, the Mariners have designated left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield for assignment.

La Stella, 33, gives the Mariners a needed left-handed bat off the bench that can spell two of their key everyday players who are right-handed hitters – first baseman Ty France and third baseman Eugenio Suárez. He will also be a veteran presence with playoff experience, having played in the postseason in six separate seasons.

“Tommy’s makeup, instincts and experience in winning environments will benefit our team as we look to make the next step,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a press release. “We value his versatility and strike zone management skills, as well as what I believe to be a high baseball IQ.”

The Mariners will only need to pay La Stella the league minimum salary, which will be $720,000 this season, because the San Francisco Giants released La Stella from his previous contract on Jan. 5. According to Mariners reporter Daniel Kramer, La Stella is still due $11.5 million from the Giants.

La Stella played 60 games with San Francisco in 2022 coming off offseason Achilles surgery, hitting .239 with a .282 on-base percentage and .350 slugging for a .632 OPS. He hit two home runs and 14 doubles in 195 plate appearances, and while he mainly was a designated hitter, he appeared at first base, second base and third base.

La Stella was an All-Star in 2019 while a member of the Los Angeles Angels. He hit a career-high 16 home runs that season along with a slash line of .295/.346/.486 for an .832 OPS.

Seattle will likely ask La Stella to mainly face right-handed pitching. He had a slash of .245/.285/.365 (.650 OPS) against righties last season, and his career numbers vs. right-handers are .270/.339/.410 (.749 OPS).

In addition to his time with the Giants and Angels, La Stella has played for Atlanta, Oakland and the Chicago Cubs in his career. He was a member of the World Series-winning Cubs team in 2016.

Sheffield, 26, appeared in six games last season for Seattle, spending the majority of the year with Triple-A Tacoma. He made his MLB debut with the Yankees in 2018 and has appeared in games for the M’s in each of the past four years following a trade from New York to Seattle. He had a strong 2020 campaign, posting a 3.58 ERA in 10 starts, but struggled to stick in the big leagues in the following years.

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