The Cubs have a lot of holes to fill. Anthony Rizzo should soon help fill some of the Cubs slugging void the team desperately needs, while Brett Jackson may soon follow to help out with some pop and OBP from the CF position. One concern that I hear from a lot of Cubs fans is the 3B situation. The Cubs have Ian Stewart in the present and Javier Baez as the most likely long-term solution, but what about in-between...what about next year?
The Cubs took a flyer on Stewart that has yet to pay off. Stewart has played good defense and has shown a good approach at the plate, but his inability to make contact, coupled with a low BABIP of .242 has really hurt his ability to contribute consistently on offense. He could still come back strong in the 2nd half, but if he doesn't, who is the answer for 2013?
I found it interesting that manager Dale Sveum, when talking about possible solutions for next season, mentioned Rizzo, Jackson, and Lake. But not Vitters.
"There's obviously going to be some guys available this winter, and you've got to sit down and decide what the plan is. It's not like we've got a lot of guys coming except the (Anthony) Rizzos, (Brett) Jacksons and Junior Lakes, guys with tons of upside. So we do have to obviously fix some things."
The key word is upside. While it's not out of the question Vitters can still be a MLB third baseman, most doubt he can be a star. Lake, while having his share of detractors, still has tons of ability and seems to have improved his approach at the plate, though it has vacillated somewhat between very patient to Dunston-esque in this season alone.
Let's compare the two, though they are playing at different levels and have had a different number of playing appearances...
|Josh Vitters||Junior Lake|
|Ht/Wt||6’2”, 200 lbs.||6’2”, 215 lbs.|
It seems that Vitters has the edge in power and contact ability, but that Lake has been a better offensive player overall. Neither is going to be a plus on defense, though both have good arms -- though "howitzer" may be a better description for Lake's arm. Lake also has better speed, having stolen 38 bases in 2011.
Granted, Vitters has put his numbers up at a higher level and over more plate appearances, but even so numbers such as wOBA and RC+ indicate so far that Vitters has been an average offensive player at the AAA level in a hitter's league. You have to believe that those numbers will come down at the major league level.
The good news is that both players are just 22 (Vitters turns 23 in August) and still have room for individual improvement. Both will have to continue to make progress to have a shot at the job next year.
The Cubs have other in-house options. They can try Adrian Cardenas at 3B who had a line of .319/.376/.521 (wOBA .385/RC+ 130) at AAA before his promotion to Chicago. He hasn't been able to put up the same numbers in Chicago, but he has played very sporadically. His defense isn't a plus either.
Luis Valbuena is not on the 40 man roster but has plenty of AAA experience as well as some time in the majors. He has played primarily 2B/SS at Iowa but can also play 3B. His line at AAA Iowa is .303/.380/.500 (wOBA .380/RC+ 126).
Or should it be a stopgap free agent? Or try to make a deal for a younger 3B such as Chase Headley?
There's no clear answer here so I'll put it to out to the readers.