As the Chicago Cubs head into Dallas next week for the winter meetings, one of the areas the team would like to address before leaving the meetings is the third base position. Former Cubs’ third baseman Aramis Ramirez has narrowed his list suitors, and the Los Angeles Angels are on the verge of making an offer to the veteran third baseman. Ramirez, who declined the Cubs arbitration offer, is not considering a return to the Cubs’ organization for the 2012 season and beyond.
Meaning the Cubs are left to fill a power vacancy at the third base position. The free agent market for third baseman is less than stellar meaning if the Cubs are going to improve the position, they will likely have to trade for player that is currently with another organization. Josh Vitters is still believed to be the third baseman of the future, but there is a chance that Vitters could project as a first baseman once he arrives at the major league level. However, the current expectation is that Vitters is not going to be ready by Opening Day 2012.
Assuming the Cubs do not want to go the Blake DeWitt/ DJ LeMahieu route at the third base position next season, the team will likely try to line up a trade for a third baseman at the Winter Meetings. There currently are two third basemen that the Cubs are interested in trading for. Both trade candidates reside in the National League West division. The Cubs and Colorado Rockies have had on-going talks about Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart. The Cubs are also keeping an eye on San Diego Padres‘ third baseman Chase Headley.
The belief is that the Cubs’ talks with the Rockies are more advanced than the team’s talks with the Padres. That should come as no surprise. The Rockies are openly trying to trade Stewart in order to pave the way for top prospect Nolan Arenado. Meanwhile, the Padres have yet to fully commit to notion of trading Headley, who is entering the prime of his career. While the Padres’ debate over whether or not to trade Headley, the Cubs are at least putting together alternative options in case their interest in Headley falls through.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post, who first reported the Cubs’ interest in Stewart, is reporting that the Colorado Rockies are asking for veteran utility infielder Blake DeWitt in exchange for Stewart. Renck notes that the Rockies interest in DeWitt is due to the fact that the former Los Angeles Dodger can play both the second base and third base position, and would be a quality veteran to have on the bench.
The Cubs acquired DeWitt in 2010 in a trade that sent Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly to the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the time of the trade, there was a belief that DeWitt could become the long-term starter at the second base position. However as the case during his time with the Dodgers, DeWitt’s struggles offensively with the Cubs led him to becoming more of a role player rather than an everyday player. Last season, DeWitt hit .265/.305/.413/.718 with the Cubs in 230 at bats. Stewart while the same age as DeWitt (26), has a higher offensive ceiling in spite of his recent struggles at the major league level. In addition to having no home runs during the 2011 season, Stewart’s batting average was below the .200 mark in 122 at bats last season with the Rockies. However, Stewart spent some time at the triple A level last season, there he hit .275/.359/.591/.950 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs with Colorado Springs. Stewart is in need of a change of scenery, and that change could come in the form of Wrigley Field.
While the Cubs and Rockies have talked about a DeWitt for Stewart exchange and there is mutual interest in such a deal, talks have cooled off of late. Mainly because the Cubs may want to go through all the other available options before pulling the trigger on the Stewart trade, and presumably handing Stewart the third base position. The aforementioned Chase Headley may be available, and he would be the perfect fit for the Cubs and their effort to build an organization of sustained success.