One of two major positional needs that remain for the Chicago Cubs this winter is at the hot corner. The Cubs like Luis Valbuena, but see him as more of a platoon player, as they should. Josh Vitters is, without question, headed back to Triple A. That has left a vacancy at the position, but with so few options remaining, someone already within the organization may be looking at his second chance with the club.
Ian Stewart came to the Cubs with moderate-to-high expectations. He was seen as a bounce back candidate. He was someone who just needed a change of scenery and could take a step in the right direction towards turning his disappointing career around. That didn’t happen.
Stewart struggled early on in the year, mostly with the stick, before wrist surgery ended his season before it really got started. Given his lack of success at the plate before the surgery, many wondered if he would even return to the Cubs next season. And often when that question was asked, the answer seemed to be no. That doesn’t seem to be the case at this point.
The non-tender deadline is Friday evening. Stewart’s name is right at the top of that list. But that’s because he’d be set to make a nice chunk of change next year, having made almost $2.25 million in 2012. The Cubs aren’t going to pay that much for a guy who hit .201 last season.
But that doesn’t spell the end of Stewart with the Cubs. Though he may be non-tendered and become a free agent, that might come with an agreement between his camp and the Cubs to begin working on a new contract, probably a one-year deal worth a lot less money. Which wouldn’t be the worse decision in the world for the Cubs.
The third base market is barren, whether you’re looking at free agency or trade. Jeff Keppinger is the only other name that has been connected to the Cubs at this point. And no one wants an entire year of Luis Valbuena starting, though he looks like he’ll be quite an asset off the bench.
Stewart’s bat needs to come around, but he fills a need and brings a nice glove to the table. He’s also versatile, so if they were to bring in someone like Keppinger, there are options for the Cubs within their lineup. I doubt they’d bring in both, but with Stewart’s wrist issues they may look to do something like that.
Regardless of what takes place prior to the non-tender deadline, Ian Stewart may still find his way back on this Cubs roster before long.