Ian Stewart injury could lead to opportunity for Luis Valbuena

Ian Stewart injury could lead to opportunity for Luis Valbuena

There were times in the offseason when it was uncertain if Ian Stewart was coming back.  The Cubs looked at some 3B options from young talents such as Lonnie Chisenhall and Mike Olt to veteran role players like Jeff Keppinger.  The Cubs were unsuccessful in all of those pursuits, so they turned to Stewart again, but the catch was that it would be on a non-guaranteed contract.  In other words, he had to make good this spring or the Cubs could conceivably cut him loose without financial loss.

The Cubs want him to make good.  He's the player with the prospect pedigree and the upside the Cubs gambled on last season, only to see him struggle with his wrist injury then finish the year on the DL.

Meanwhile Luis Valbuena filled in at 3B, had some tough luck on offense but continued to play great defense.  Then this winter in the Venezuelan League (.306/.414/.497), Valbuena seemed to find the stroke he showed in AAA Iowa (.303/.378/.507) prior to his call-up.

In a post by Carrie Muskat today, Manager Dale Sveum addressed his two 3B and the current situation...

Sveum has raved about Valbuena’s defensive skills and said this spring that third base is Ian Stewart’s job to win. But Stewart is sidelined with a strained left quad. Could Valbuena be the Cubs starting third baseman?

“Like I said, it was [Stewart's] job to win, not to lose,” Sveum said. “Things might change because who knows when Stewart will be back to play. I know Valbuena can play third. He doesn’t need to play third to get his at-bats.

“The guy had good winter ball, and obviously put a good swing on a ball today,” Sveum said after Friday’s intrasquad game, in which Valbuena hit a two-run home run. “I’m not too concerned about Valbuena. I need to see him everywhere. If things work out that way, then yeah, he’ll be playing third base quite a bit. First half of spring you’ll see him a lot more at other positions.”

So far it seems that the job is still Stewart's to win and he looked great early on, hitting the ball well in batting practice and then promptly doubling off the wall in his first spring AB. But nothing is guaranteed yet.  He's going to have to show up to win that job. If he is unable to stay healthy, then Valbuena will be ready to fill in again.

 

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  • I wouldn't mind seeing Luis V get a shot. This could be the year he comes into his own. I don't think 20 homers is out of the question with a full year. Maybe even a few more.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Valbuena wouldn't hit 20HR in little league. Hes a role player.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    20 HRs may be asking a lot but I don't think 10-12 with lots of doubles is out of the question. A little better luck and maybe he hits .260 or so. Combine that with his good defense and you can live with that as a starter.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think that boat has sailed on Valbuena. He's had more opportunities than anyone to at least be a serviceable starter going back to his days with the tribe. At this point he's a very good role player in my eyes. He's versatile and has a nice bat for a utility man. That's where I see him making the most impact.

  • The Stewart trade was a mistake from day 1, cut your losses and move on.

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    In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I wholeheartedly agree.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    Looks that way so far,but I don't think they have much to gain by cutting him loose right now. Might as well hang on and see if he can stay healthy and hit.

  • If Luis V. is the starting 3B we better hope that Vitters gets it together.

    Unfortunately, I have no confidence in either. It'd sure be great if one of our other suspects steps up, otherwise the Cubs gotta do something else to stop the revolving door at 3B. Again.

    And if one of 'em turns out to be another Bill Madlock, please don't trade him!!

  • In reply to eaton53:

    You have a much better front office today then when Madlock was traded. Salty Saltwell made Spendry look like a genius.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Lake is the one that interests me more than Vitters right now if they have to go the minor league route, but I'm not sure he'll hit any better than Valbuena.

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    In reply to eaton53:

    IMO what the rush? Why does the 3B position need to be rectified right this very second? I think the Cubs have nothing to lose by trying all these guys and see if one of them maybe sticks at 3B for free before you go out and trade assets to get one. It just makes sense to exhaust all your in-house options first.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    "IMO, what the rush?"

    No rush... like I said, I hope one of the other 3B suspects steps up.

    I just don't want a repeat of the post-Santo era,.especially if other guys get good. It'd be a shame to have a bunch of young studs come through only to have 3B be a continuus weak link.

  • I don't know but an MRI on a tight quad, is that really a major cause for concern? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Last year, I saw Vitters play in Des Moines and thought he did fine. Young for his league and takes a year to grow into his level. I'm hoping to watch him in Des Moines again this summer and hope he really attacks it. Even with that, I'm intrigued by Junior Lake. Can't put my finger on whether he's a legit 3B or another poor man's Mark DeRosa. Sure would be nice to have some pop at third though and not start another merry-go-round like we had from the Santo to Rameriz period. Looking forward to the games this spring and summer. Thanks John.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    Lake still has to show consistency, both on offense and defense. A sub 900 fielding pct and a 250BA with 10Hr at AA are not all that impressive. Lake has impressive skills, but they have yet to translate into practice.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    You're welcome! I'm intrigued by Lake as well though Vitters may get the first shot based on experience at AAA. I do think Lake ends up more like DeRosa in the sense that he can be a multi-position sub.

  • In reply to BobMiller146:

    As for quad situation, it could vary. Soriano had one that hampered him for nearly a whole season. For Stewart though, the biggest thing is that it will cost him an opportunity to play this spring -- and that, in turn, costs him an opportunity to win that job.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If the injury bug slows him down and he doesn't win the job, beyond him not making the squad, do you see the Cubs hoping to waive him w/ a desire to resign or do you think the Cubs move on w/ out any further attempts to keep him in their system?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I think they move on. Wouldn't surprise me if they looked for a role player/platoon type 3B off waiver wire or deal late in spring.

  • Valbuena is what he is, a role player. If he was any good, both Cleveland and Toronto would have kept him . He gets exposed when he plays too often. Stewart is a better option providing hes actually healthy.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Ideally he is a role player but Cubs may not have much choice. If he does start, would be nice to spell him vs. LHP, at least occasionally.

  • Sveum kinda sounds like Valbuena is competing with the utility types (Lillibridge, Watkins, Maysonet) but that may change with the Stewart & Vitters out 10-14 days...

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    I definitely think that, if he had a choice, Sveum would rather have Valbuena be a utility guy.

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    If Stewart's contract is voided or he otherwise doesn't make the team, the bigger beneficiary might be Lillibridge. Losing Stewart would almost guarantee him a roster spot, and maybe open one up for Maysonet as well

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed it would almost guarantee Lillibridge makes the team and possibly platoons with Valbuena at 3B.

  • Is Stewart's contract not guaranteed for the whole year? Or if he makes the Cubs out of spring training, then it becomes guaranteed?

  • The Josh Vitters era is about to begin.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I wish. But he's injured too. The guy just can't catch a break lol

  • So Lillibridge will add to the Cubs infrastructure?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Haha! This team needs much more than a "Lil "Bridge, though.

  • Can we all see the pattern here? Garza & Stewart both shut down last year - We haven't even played a game yet and they are back on the sidelines watching the rest of the team bust their asses!

    Does Ted & Theo see the pattern? I know its early and injuries do happen but, come on - this is a bad omen for the season with these two.

    Yes, Stewart we can dump but, I hope we didn't screw the pooch on Garza by waiting too long to trade him and wind up with another broken/questionable pitcher with little or no trade value.

    I do like Valbuena but of course the jury is still out...Go Cubs!!

    And shout out to the Blackhawks breaking the record last night!!

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Waiting to long to trade Garza? If the Cubs acquired a SP who missed the last half of the season last year and was injured in trainging camp, we all would raise holy hell that they traded for an injury prone player.

    Garza isn't going anywhere until June at the earliest as no one will trade for him until he shows he is healthy.

  • Stewart has a non guaranteed contract. I don't remember all the details, but if he is released more than three? weeks before the beginning of the season, he gets x% of his salary. If released after that, but before the beginning of the season, he get y%, and at some point after that, he gets it all.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Good point. I don't have the exact details either but you have to think that factors into the decision. It's probably not a ton of money, but Cubs aren't going to throw it away either.

  • Stewart is not that big a loss if he gets released, at least financially. Problem is, no one else on the roster right now is a quality everyday MLB 3b. Its the biggest hole in the lineup, worse than even catcher.

  • Via the Trib - Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart is expected to miss from 10 to 14 days with a mild to moderate strain of his left quad.
    The Cubs can pay Stewart a termination fee of $500,000 -- or a quarter of his $2 million contract -- at the end of spring training if he doesn’t make the team.
    Does this hurt his chances?
    Stewart - "My confidence is so high right now that this is just kind of a little roadblock.”

    Yeah - my confidence would be high if I could take two weeks off of my job after doing crap for the better half of last year, plus not even bother to hang with the club or stop by once in a while..Oh and get paid HALF A MILLION.....

    My confidence would be high too - this guy is a joke! Just dump him and be done with it Theo!!

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Ouch.

    And yeah, I wouldn't be confident right now if I were him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think he means his confidence at the plate.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    I know what you mean. Obviously that &%#(*& deliberately broke his wrist so he wouldn't have to play baseball and advance his career.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    So you are down on him because he didn't hang with the club or drop by once in awhile? Do you want a third baseman or a mascot like campana or derossa? The reason to hold on to Stewart is because when you are rebuilding and don't have many tradeable assets, you dont' want to set back your rebuilding by having to squander assets plugging holes on short term roster fixes. Keeping Stewart costs you nothing, Colvin would have been dumped and japan bound if the rockies rare air hadn't found a place for him. Let Sterwart play, he has all the incentive in the world to play well for his next contract, other wise he's starting all over again at some other team. The cubs really don't have any other options, unless you are comfortable with a third base platoon of utility type players. The only reason to dump sterwart now, is if you want the cubs to be out of contention sooner and start trading off players earlier. Stewart may not have a high WAR, but his WANR is probably around 10 games, that is wins above no replacement.

  • I say leave Vitters and Lake down until one is ready. Sweum knows Valbuena can handle 3B and also grinds out at bats and we need a veteran utility guy anyway(Lillibridge). I like Steward's game when he is healthy, but who knows if that will ever happen. I am not in favor of trading for a young near major league ready 3Bman because the Cubs have their own. One will be ready for the test mid season.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I'd do the same thing. They both need AAA experience.

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  • In reply to Marilyn Sanchez:

    Marilyn, go talk to the White Sox. They need fresh marketing ideas. Maybe you can sell Pale Hoser season tickets with your "online business".

  • CubsTalk 2013 PREDICTIONS
    (*) Playoff Team

    A.L.East

    1 - Rays *
    2 - Blue Jays *
    3 - Yankees
    4 - Orioles
    5 - Red Sox

    Best division in all of MLB.....Rays hit 90 wins in 2012 without Longoria, should hit 100 + wins in 2013.......Blue Jays improved, but can they stay healthy?....Yankees will either be sellers or buyers in July.....Orioles won over 20 games by one run in 2012....won't happen again but will be near 90 wins.....Red Sox needs to rebuild.

    A.L. Central

    1 - Tigers *
    2 - White Sox
    3 - Royals
    4 - Indians
    5 - Twins

    Tigers in 2013?....will Verlander get his $200 million.....answers are Yes and Maybe...Tigers will run away with this division........Sox have a strong bullpen, questions in starting pitching....will miss AJ......Royals got pitching, but gave up allot......can anyone figure out what the Indians are doing?.....Twins fans will be thinking of Vikings training camp by June.

    A.L. West

    1 - Angels *
    2 - Rangers *
    3 - A's
    4 - Mariners
    5 - Astros

    This could be a three team race for the top again......everyone will pound on the Astros.....Angels will win this division once they get two top line pitchers in July.....Rangers lost both Hamilton and Young, both hard hits for a team that almost won 3 World Series......A's will not sneak up this year, but will make it interesting......Mariners might have Felix, but not much else......Astros should be ready to contend by 2022

    N.L. East

    1 - Braves *
    2 - Nationals *
    3 - Phillies
    4 - Mets
    5 - Marlins

    I first was going with the Nationals, then I looked over the Braves again,and I come to a conclusion that the Braves are the BEST in the N.L.....Nationals, the next BEST team in the N.L......Phillies will be Sellers in July if they can keep Lee, Halladay, Rollins and Utley healthy by then to trade them off to the Angels and Yankees......Mets will have good young prospects, but the Mets have become a minor league team........anyone feel bad for the Marlins Stanton?......there are teams in MLB that need to cease operations...the Marlins are one of them.

    N.L. West

    1 -Giants *
    2 - Dodgers
    3 - Diamondbacks
    4 - Padres
    5 - Rockies

    Giants are "Pitching Strong"....Dodgers Mattingly job is on the line...Dodgers are stacked and need to win.....Theo will wait for GM Colletti to ask about Garza in July........but they will not be able to over take the Giants.....Diamondbacks are below 500 team.....so are the Padres...and so are the Rockies, who will lose over 100 games.

    N.L. Central

    1 - Cardinals *
    2 - Cubs *
    3 - Reds
    4 - Pirates
    5 - Brewers

    Cardinals will win this division with 90 wins, withe Cubs behind them with 88 wins without Garza or Marmol......but our Cinderella Cubs will be out in the first round of the playoffs.....Dusty Baker will ruin another pitching staff as many of his pitchers hit the DL this year............Pirates & Brewers have no pitching at all.

    AL MVP -Longoria (Rays)...runner up - Cabrera (Tigers)
    AL Cy Young - Buehrle (Blue Jays)...runner up - Price (Rays)
    AL Champs - Tigers

    NL MVP - Heyward (Braves) ...runner up - Posey (Giants)
    NL Cy Young - Cain (Giants) ....runner up - Kershaw (Dodgers)
    NL Champs - Braves

    Braves over the Tigers in six games.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Is this based on Cub-conventional wisdom?

  • Valbuena is miles ahead of Vitters and Lake. Of course he could hit 20 HR's. He just turned 27, he hit 10 for the Indians at 23 years old in a little over .300 at bats. He was one of the best hitters in the Latin winter leagues.

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    He gets exposed with prolonged amounts of playing time. And why would he hit 20 bombs in the majors this year when he's never sniffed those numbers. He's been around for a while now and most people believe he is what his is at this point. He's miles ahead of those guys because he's 4 years older.

  • Epstein and Hoyer seem to be pretty patient with players. I would not be surprised if they let Stuart sit for 10-14 days and then let him try again. Not much to lose doing that.

  • In reply to John57:

    I think they'll be patient, but it does put more pressure on Stewart simply because he'll have less time.

  • I'm still pulling for Stewart, and I interpret Sveum's comments to mean he is too. These quotes are actually a relief to me. Before this it almost sounded like Sveum would play Valbuena over Stewart if both were healthy.

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    *might, not would.

  • Well - at least the injury is not the wrist again,.... but Here's hoping that the heal-up is quick, and non-lingering.

    I would love to see Stewart get a chance,.... not to disparage Valbuena,... but a healthy Stewart has most of the defensive upside AND better batting upside.

  • I think we are way overthinking Stewart. The injury is a bump in the road. The Cubs will see what he has until the last day of spring training. I am betting he is our starting 3B on opening day and he he is 75% of his best seasons we are OK at third this season and a better team than if Valbuena is starting. Remember we haven't even played against another team yet. If this injury occurred in late March then worry. In the meantime lets not evaluate the trade until the end of the year or if Stewart is cut. Either way Colvin was not in the future plans.

  • In reply to Cubfin:

    I'm with you there.

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    In reply to Cubfin:

    He's going to miss at least 3 weeks of spring training in a situation where the job was "his to win."

    He's in real trouble.

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