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