The Chicago Cubs actually have the bulk of their infield set for the foreseeable future. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and potentially Welington Castillo make up four out of the five spots on the infield. Which just leaves one major question as we head into the years when the Cubs could look to contend: third base.
The Cubs technically don’t have that third baseman that fits into the future plans. Or do they?
As things stand right now, heading into the new season, Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena will compete for time at the hot corner. The job is basically Stewart’s to lose, with Valbuena likely seeing time all over the infield as a backup. Stewart is going to be an interesting piece of this Cubs team to watch this season.
He came over from the Colorado Rockies last offseason, in the deal that represented a change of scenery for him and both Tyler Colvin, who headed to Colorado in the deal. Colvin took advantage of his and put up decent numbers in his first season with the Rox. Stewart wasn’t so fortunate.
Stewart came to the Cubs with a wrist issue that everyone was already aware of. The problem eventually got to the point where it required surgery, and Stewart missed the rest of the season after playing in the first couple of months. Even when he was playing, his fielding was solid, but his bat was awful. He hit just .201 in 55 games.
Completely healthy heading into the new year, is Stewart a guy that the Cubs could give a long look to as a third baseman? Or will they simply view him as a placeholder until the likes of Javier Baez/Josh Vitters/Christian Villanueva are ready to make the jump to the big leagues?
That is going to be up to Stewart. He’s always been a guy who has played well in the field, and has mashed in the minors, but that success hasn’t translated to success with the stick at the top level. Which is why he may be nothing more than a stopgap for the Cubs. However, there’s always that “what if?” .
If Stewart can come out and look like he knows what he’s doing at the plate, perhaps put up numbers that are a little more similar to what he did in the minors in 2011 (.275/.359/.591/.950), then he may be in business. But we’re looking at a guy who probably won’t be around this time next year, especially if someone like Baez makes a big impact down on the farm in 2013.