Offseason Moves Series Part 2: Third Base

Offseason Moves Series Part 2: Third Base
Would Theo and Jed turn to a familiar face at 3B?

Co-written with John Arguello

Yesterday we addressed the starting pitching.  Today it's the 3rd base situation.  The Cubs took a flyer on a young, talented 3B in Ian Stewart, but it did not work out. At least not yet.  It remains to be seen whether Stewart will get that 2nd chance with the Cubs.  Bruce Levine speculated in a chat earlier that the Cubs weren't happy with his work ethic.

If they do part ways with Stewart, that leaves the Cubs with Luis Valbuena and Josh Vitters.  Ideally Valbuena is a utility man and Vitters is in AAA.  So the Cubs will look at some 3Bs.  Perhaps they'll dig up another flyer or they may just go with a veteran to plug the hole until one of their many 3B prospects are ready.

Tom: When it comes to third base I’ve come to a conclusion. Javier Baez has done nothing yet to convince me he won’t be ready in 2 seasons or less. With that said, it makes no sense for the Cubs to go out an aquirre anyone for more than that time period. That would be unless the front office sees Baez as a potential second baseman, which I don’t think is their first choice.

That leads me to my 2013 solution, Youk!

Sure it seems obvious because of the Boston connection but it’s more than that. Kevin Youkilis is the type of vet I want to surround the kids with. David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano have been nice influences thus far and I think there needs to be a couple more like them.

Youkilis may not be the defensive player the Cubs would like at the corner, but his offensive approach is exactly the type of thing the young line up could take notes from. I think he has at least one more solid year in the tank and the Cubs could use Luis Valabuena to spell him now and then. He isn't putting up prolific OBP numbers anymore but the Cubs would gladly take the .348/.777 OPS he gave the Sox this year.

It’s hard to imagine Youk getting more than a one year deal so this could be a win-win. He may even be a nice hitting coach type down the road if he wants to stick around longer?

This move provides the Cubs the opportunity to at least give Josh Vitters a longer look at Iowa and ultimately pave the way for the future in Baez.

John: I’m intrigued by the idea of Kevin Youkilis, specifically because he has the approach the Cubs want and he’s a short term solution who may be looking for a one-year, make good type of deal (ala Carlos Pena).   Wrigley and the NL can provide the environment he needs to bounce back with a solid season, especially since a .268 BABIP indicates he had more than his share of bad luck.

The deal would have to be with the understanding that he can be flipped for prospects at the deadline.   It seems to me both sides would be amenable to that sort of handshake agreement, especially since he has a long history with the Cubs current front office.

The drawback is defense. He’s not a plus in the field, but it’s not as if he’s a statue with an iron glove over there either.  Looking at it as a whole, he seems like the best option out there for the Cubs situation.

If it’s not Youkilis then the Cubs will have to shift gears to a different type of player, perhaps someone like Maicer Itzuris.  Admittedly, he doesn’t have the bat for 3B, but he has been a good defensive player with a career 8.2% walk rate.    He’s also a good baserunner with some speed, something the Cubs really lacked this past season.

Offensively, it would still be a hole in the lineup, but maybe you can get an Oakland style platoon where you can at least maximize both players offensively, and get good ABs with plus defense.

I also like Itzuris’ versatility, something the Cubs need as they continue to transition their roster.  He can backup Castro at SS and provide a short-term replacement at 2B should the Cubs trade Darwin Barney – or, perhaps, should one of Josh Vitters or Junior Lake emerge as a bona fide starting option at 3B midseason.

Maybe you can get both, but I think Itzuris will be looking as much for opportunity as he will anything else, so being a backup on a bad team may not be all that enticing.

There’s also Brandon Inge, who is a stellar defensive player, the best of this group, with some pop and an 8% career walk rate.  He’s sort of the RH version of Ian Stewart – who is yet another option.  Inge may have more of the kind of intangibles the Cubs prefer, however.

No matter what the Cubs do, I think they should keep Valbuena.  He’d make a good reserve or possibly a platoon player with Itzuris or Inge if the Cubs have to go in that direction.

With such limited options, I prefer Youkilis. If Youk’s not interested in coming to a bad team on a one year deal, then I think the Cubs will have to mix and match with good defensive players and sacrifice some offense again.  I think I’d rather do that than try someone like Mark Reynolds or spend big on a player in terms of contract or prospects who will block Javier Baez down the road.  In regards to Reynolds, the power and walk rate is enticing, but the price of bad defense and a horrific contact rate may outweigh that in the end.

Filed under: 2013 Offseason Series

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  • I think Youk would be a great stop gap for a year or two. The White Sox will not keep him, and he could cap off a nice career by helping the Cubs rebuild.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Nobody out there is a perfect fit for this team, but I think he makes some sense. He's struggled a bit this season, but that's what might make him more amenable to coming to the Cubs to see if he can find his stroke again.

    We'll see. The other options I see out there are defensively oriented, something that isn't as appealing, and it's probably not worth trading for a young player when the Cubs have some depth at 3B in the minors, starting with Javier Baez, of course.

  • After Bruce Levine's chat revelation, it sounds like Lazy Ian won't be back. It's a shame because if he could muster just a little offense he'd be so much better than Youk. Ian has a higher walk rate that Youk and is far superior on defense. But his post-op exile from the team is a troubling sign.
    I don't think the FO will bring in Youk because of how much they value defense and because of his age and risk of injury. But they have to bring in somebody, and maybe he's the least objectionable; I don't know what other choices there are to pick from.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    That's the problem. Youk is at least better than Reynolds on defense and he was probably about an average defender (0.4 career UZR) up until last season -- but his back injury may have had something to do with that. If he can be serviceable that would suffice if he hits.

    The good defensive players, with the exception of Wright, don't really hit. And guys like Chase Headley are probably prohibitive in terms of the kinds of prospects it would take to acquire him.

    It's a tough season for 3Bs, the Cubs will just have to hang on until Baez, or at least Villanueva, is ready.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I respect Bruce Levine alot but I disagree completely that Stewart should be categorized as Lazy Ian. I will be the first to admit that I'm a tad biased about Stewart. Living in Asheville I had the opportunity to watch him play early and I was always impressed by his work ethic. On top of that I've gotten to know Joe Mikulik over the years and as his former coach and father in law Joe cannot say enough good things about the guy.
    I really hope that this surgury has fixed his wrist problem and IMHO the Cub's brass should give him an invite to ST to see whether or not he can be the contributor that we need.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I hope you're right and that Bruce was wrong about an attitude problem, because if so then I'd much rather go with Ian than Youk. If Ian can muster just a little power to go with his walk rate and his defense, it sounds like he'd be the best available option for the Cubs. Youk was called out by his nutty manager in Boston, so it's possible that he had an attitude problem too. It's very hard to know who's a good teammate and who isn't because it's kept under raps except in drastic cases like Milton.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I don't know enough personally to say either way...or who Levine used as a source on that one. So I'm giving Stewart the benefit of the doubt until the Cubs make their decision. i will say that it is curious that he's not accompanying the team the way Matt Garza is.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The word that I got from a close friend who is one of Mikuliks very good buddys is that Stewart was told to concentrate on his recovery and rehab. I'm thinking that he's going to be evaluated on that prior to getting or not getting an invite. I'm also wondering if his recovery and rehab from his surgury is something that would more or less require him to stay pretty much in one place and follow a specific plan.

  • How about Stewart and Youk?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don't think they'll get Youk to be a part time player. Maybe Stewart and Inge or Itzuris.

  • I liked the Stewart move when it was made and I would have no issue going with him again. However it was kind of known around the media that the Cubs weren't thrilled with the fact he wasn't rehabbing around the club, etc.

  • I like the idea of giving Stewart another try if the laziness thing isn't true. I get the feeling it is, though. Youk wouldn't be a bad choice for a year. But with such limited options, maybe the FO will target getting a 3b back with some prospects in a Soriano or Barney deal. I like Barney, but his stock will never be higher than his 4.6 WAR.

  • IE: Stewarts laziness.
    Like everyone here I've heard all this stuff too. And the one thing that keeps coming to mind is that if my boss called me out and basically said that unless I straighten up and fly right I'm going to be in danger of losing my job then the first thing I'm going to do is to go to him and say what do you want me to do and then go do it.
    If Ian is too dumb to do that then well........see ya later.
    And I say this as a huge Ian fan

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I'm sure he would go in that situation, but my feeling is that the front office either suggested it or they just flat out said nothing and left it up to Stewart. They probably feel this is something Stewart should want to do. They shouldn't have to specifically tell him to do this.

    Maybe lazy isn't the word, but it seems as if he hasn't made Cubs baseball his priority.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    this seems like a bit of a petty reason to non-tender the best option you have. At the very least, he has the same value as last season and could be traded for someone else's disappointment. I'll be pretty shocked if they non-tender Stewart. Kind of disappointed in Levine for printing that too. Lots of guys get unwarranted reputations over undisclosed sources. Even if its true and you're in the Cubs front office, why would you disclose that to a writer? It just torpedoes any value you can get for a guy. It's the kind of thing I'd expect from the last regime.

    Agree Youk is the next best option, but think the Sox may pick up his option.

    It's a long way down after that, which is why the Stewart situation is so critical

  • Jeff Keppinger would be my choice. 2/4M would get it done. Better than anyone available in this price range and skillset. Nice trade chip as well.

  • In reply to torquemonster:

    Keppinger is an excellent choice. I had him in my original 3B article and I forgot to include him on this one. Thanks for mentioning him.

    Defense and approach have improved and we know he can hit for average at least.

  • In reply to torquemonster:

    2/4 I don't think is going to get that done with the season he's having. MLBTR says 2 and 7-10 is more like it.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/jeff_keppinger/

    Also, there's a pretty good chance he's flukey.

  • Change of topic. With the big increase in the Cubs draft pool money
    and their increase in the international signing money they should be
    in great shape to pickup 2 top prospects. Sorry for my harping on
    the Cubs draft choice. It's my OCD , when I get something in my
    head I can't let it go.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Haha! Understood. I think that's something that deserves a dedicated article. They could do what Houston did last year, but they may also repeat what they did last year and just take the guy they thought was the best player, then count on someone like Pierce Johnson or Duane Underwood to fall. It's going to depend on whether they think there is a strong preference for a player like there was with Almora last year, but I'll try and get an article out soon.

  • Y thing that since there's so few 3Bs available, I think Youk will be overpriced. I'd like to see Casey McGehee considered.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    i disagree that hes gonna be overpriced. i feel that most contenders will stay away from youk because hes injury prone and had a bad year. and most of the contenders are set at third, so its gonna be mostly non playoff teams vying for his services. if the dodgers were involved, id probably take it back, but they just acquired hanley and have dee gordon, so im prettty sure theyre set.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Maybe Oakland?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Another possibility. His defense has gotten better too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i agree oakland could be in the running, but they arent gonna overpay for him either. we would very easily win a bidding war with oakland. also oakland is the type of team we could flip him to at the deadline, eating the rest of his salary for better prospects.

  • Just throwing this out there. What if we "sold high" on Baez and traded him to San Diego for Chase Headley and possibly another pitching prospect. Or is that just crazy talk? I don't think it is. I'll always go with the proven mlb guy over the "could be" guy.

  • In reply to irishivy75:

    that would be a Hendry type move. Headley is a solid player but Baez is a superstar type potential player who isnt far away. Would be a move that would warrant someone losing thier job.

  • In reply to irishivy75:

    I think it's too early for that type of move. Headley will be 29 next season and if you don't think you can win for 2 seasons, you've now got a guy who will be past his prime and will need to get paid big. I think if the Cubs were in win-now mode, maybe that's something you consider since you can still get some of his best years when the Cubs are beginning to contend.

  • As a one year stop gap, I'd be OK with bringing Stewart back, but it bothers me that he's been away from the team this whole time. I think the Cubs are done with him. I don't want any part of Youklis and I think a combo of Inge and Valbuena would work for a year.

    I'm with Tom that I think Baez could be ready in 2014...he's a unique prospect and should be treated like one. BA just named Javier Baez the #1 prospect in the MWL which is a big deal. He’s ahead of guys like Sano and Lindor in one of the deepest leagues for prospects.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    That was a huge deal because most would have put Lindor and Sano well ahead of him when the season started. That he passed that level of prospects is a pretty big deal.

  • I wonder if we can move someone within our organization to 3rd? For instance, Clevenger was drafted and as a 2B, and there are catchers who also play 3B to save their legs. Can anyone think of another candidate?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Cant' think of any candidate that could make that transition, and certainly not anybody who is going to be any better than Valbuena.

  • Or to toss another couple of names out there, and I'm not sure if they've been re-signed lately, Eric Chavez or Marco Scutaro? I watch a lot of Giants games, and Scutaro looks like a kid again.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I like those names. I think for Chavez he'll either stay with the Yanks or retire. Scutaro is an interesting choice to consider now that he's certain to get a lower salary. Can play other positions too so he gives the team some versatility.

  • I hope that Theo or Jed talk to Stewart before they deceide
    (by mid Nov.) if their going to put him on the 40-man roster.
    I think he should be given another chance if his attitude is
    ok and he really wants to come back

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think that's on the agenda. It's a big decision and the lack of 3Bs out there gives him a shot of returning if he can convince them he's serious about coming back to work hard and return to form.

  • Get something for Stewart in a Lost Year (2013) - Assuming Stewart is healthy, in his prime, and has something to prove, he could put up big numbers and then you deal him for a very good prospect or two good ones as he plays great D and gets a playoff bound team a left handed power bat at the hot corner. He's a rare commodity in that respect, so build him back up and bank him.

  • In reply to Dsqd2:

    Agree, he is the kind of project the Cubs don't want to give away.

  • What I saw at third base this year with the Cubs was terrible..........I think we would had the same production if we threw one of Ron Santo's wooden legs at that base.........

    What about trading for Gordon Beckham and putting him at third?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Interesting if the Sox are willing. They're going to lose a lot of players so I don't know if they'll go in for an overhaul or keep what they can.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Bad image re Ronnie; bad idea re Beckham. Don't like Beckham, he isn't a clutch performer, plate or field.

  • i really like the idea of youkilis. hes a big name, which sell tickets, and were gonna need names to sell tickets next year because the product on the field may not be all that pretty. i think cubs fans will like the fact that we "stole" him from the sox if we end up signing him. hes familiar with the front office. he has an excellent approach at the plate, and guys like rizzo, castro, castillo and jackson will be allowed to watch and pick his brain for advice, possibly making them all better players.

    also i dont know why youk wouldnt want to come to the cubs. the possible contenders for his services are probably: l.a. angels, arizona, white sox, reds, rockies, marlins, twins, mets, a's, phillies and the cubs. i dont think he'll spurn t/j for another losing team so that eliminates the twins, rockies and marlins(although i could see miami as the one club that overpays him). the dbacks (johnson, wheeler, davidson) and reds(frazier) both have internal options and the mets are probably resigning wright. the a's and the sox probably wont be able to afford him, leaving the cubs, phillies and angels. the angels have callaspo, but could be looking for a better option at third, but most of their focus will most likely be on resigning greinke. and the phillies, theyre certainly a possibility, but i think they wanna avoid injury prone players as much as possible considering whos already on their roster.

    so i think the cubs could definitely grab youk, if the north side is where he wants to be. and i think just based on the value he'd bring in mentoring the young guys would be worth the contract alone.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    No, they are not ready to throw any kind of money at position players, and Youk will want a big contract. Also forget about Chase Headley.

    Somehow Placido Polanco comes up on my radar. Somebody mentioned Eric Chavez, but he's too brittle. I would be shocked if Ian Stewart is still part of the plan.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Rob Letterly:

    Youk may want big money, but I'd be surprised if he gets it. Down, injured year and he's getting older. I'm not sure how I feel about him as an option, but I think he'll be affordable. The main question is whether he'd want to be on a young bad team, biding his time until possibly being flipped at the deadline.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    The first thing is whether he'd want to come here and the second is whether the Cubs think he has anything left.

    Youk is a middle ground pick for me. Guys like Wright and Headley probably won't be available while most of the other guys really aren't starter quality. He fits what the Cubs want to do on offense, so maybe...but wouldn't be at all surprised if the Cubs went in a different direction.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    i didnt mention it, but i was stictly talking about a 1 year deal. i dont want them throwing serious deals at position players either. i agree that he will probably seek a big contract but when he finds that its not out there i think we can offer a pretty decent one year deal that he'll take to prove his value/health.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    I have to disagree... or at least split hairs with you Rob. The Cubs have already cut a lot of salary off their roster and I could easily see them paying decent money for a short-term (1-2 year) option. Why not? Could help ticket sales as jshmoran pointed out, would fill a gaping hole, and could provide some veteran leadership to a young team. If he doesn't perform, you've only invested for a year or two so cut bait (I know, it's easy to spend other people's money, but if you're the Ricketts and you aren't prepared to do this from time to time, you bought into the wrong business).

    I really think Youkilis is a perfect fit IF he accepts a short-term deal. He keeps the position warm for a year or two as we wait for Villanueva or Baez, gets on base at a decent clip, and hits for some power. Valbuena could spell Youk from time to time and provide a left-handed option off the bench. Done and done.

    I wouldn't mind if Stewart gets another shot as a Plan B but also with the same short-term contract stipulation (probs a 1 year deal for him).

    And can Inge still catch or is he strickly a 3B these days?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    [quote]"I really think Youkilis is a perfect fit IF he accepts a short-term deal. He keeps the position warm for a year or two as we wait for Villanueva or Baez, gets on base at a decent clip, and hits for some power. Valbuena could spell Youk from time to time and provide a left-handed option off the bench. Done and done.

    I wouldn't mind if Stewart gets another shot as a Plan B but also with the same short-term contract stipulation (probs a 1 year deal for him)."[/quote]

    Good post :thumsup:

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    Polanco is another stopgap candidate. Defense isn't as good as it used to be, but it's probably good enough for a year or so.

  • I don't really understand why anyone should correlate not rehabbing with a team to a bad attitude. Stewart suffered an injury that caused pain every time he made contact with a ball. I think this injury will require time to heal and time to get your head on straight. Not everyone has a high pain threshold. The last thing Stewart may need, is to be in a situation where he takes a swing at a ball, before he is ready, physically as well as mentally.

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