$2 million is at stake. Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has 2-3 weeks to show that he belongs on the MLB Opening Day roster. Stewart won’t receive his $2 million salary unless he makes the team. If Stewart isn’t productive or healthy during this time, the Cubs will probably release him. They’d have to pay Stewart a small termination fee.
On Feb. 21, Stewart suffered a quad strain when he was rounding the bases on a double. That injury has kept him out for all the Cactus League games. Assuming that there are no setbacks in his recovery, Stewart is expected to return during the middle of next week. That’s an approximate return date of Mar. 13.
From around Mar. 13 to Mar. 30, Stewart will try to win a job as the backup third baseman to Luis Valbuena. Those 18 days will determine whether Stewart receives that $2 million paycheck. Stewart has become expendable because Brent Lillibridge is a super-utility player who can play every position other than catcher and pitcher.
Projected bench players include Scott Hairston, Dioner Navarro (or a backup catcher), Lillibridge and either Dave Sappelt or Darnell McDonald. There’s room for one more player.
If Stewart can show anything in these two-plus weeks, he’ll make the team. It helps that he has the scarcity advantage that comes as a left-handed hitter.
The bar hasn’t been set high; Stewart just needs to go out and play. Furthermore, Stewart must show that this quad injury isn’t something that will linger on through spring training or the regular season.