Outside of their starting staff, there is not a position on the Chicago Cubs roster that needs to be addressed more than third base.
The Cubs rolled into the 2012 season hoping that their buying low on Ian Stewart would pay off, and he could turn around his disappointing career with a change of scenery. That didn’t happen. Stewart’s performance didn’t come through, nor did his health, as his season ended after just a couple of months due to wrist problems.
Luis Valbuena spent the majority of the remainder of the year filling in at the hot corner, and wasn’t as terrible as initially thought. He could actually have a future with this team as a utility infielder type. But he proved in his time as a starter that he’s not capable of carrying the load there, with the glove or with the stick.
There was also the small matter of Josh Vitters callup to the bigs, where he saw his first action. And it wasn’t pretty. Vitters was completely overmatched and will head back to Triple A for at least the beginning of next season, if he even makes it through the offseason with the club.
That means that the Cubs will be forced to look outside the organization for a solution at third base in 2013. The only issue is that there aren’t exactly a wealth of options lying around out there for the Cubs to throw at the hot corner. The veteran options include guys like Brandon Inge and Eric Chavez, names I highly doubt the Cubs will pursue.
Instead they could look at younger options elsewhere. Two names that have popped up in connection with the Cubs at one point or another since the offseason began are Nick Castellanos and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Castellanos is a name that came up in the Matt Garza trade rumors, but we haven’t heard much since. The Detroit Tigers are believed to be shopping him, given the fact that Miguel Cabrera is blocking him, but he’s also learning to play some outfield. That latter fact could prevent him from being traded, but the Tigers could also look to move him if they want to acquire another impact bat or arm for their rotation. Any way you slice it, it’s difficult to see him ending up as a Cub, unless they swing a deal for Garza.
Chisenhall, on the other hand, is quite an intriguing name, and one that has popped up on more than one occasion in recent weeks. There’s no guarantee that the Cleveland Indians are interested in dealing Chisenhall, but with their need to start beefing up the organization in a similar manner to the Cubs, they’ll probably be listening on anyone.
The 24-year-old will be given every opportunity to win the job at third, but the Tribe have also been looking at other options at that spot as well. If they do look to deal him, the Cubs could take a look at a kid with a quick swing and power to all fields. He does strike out quite a bit, and his glove isn’t the greatest, but the potential for offensive success outweighs the negatives that could come with Chisenhall at third.
We really don’t know what direction the Cubs plan to go in at the hot corner. A young third baseman would make a ton of sense, much more than a guy like Eric Chavez. But with the Cubs’ recent gameplan, it wouldn’t be a much of a surprise to see Valbuena there, either. If they do look outside, though, look for someone like Chisenhall to be a target.