Yesterday afternoon, Andrew provided a great run down of the Cubs 40 man roster news. One out of the couple of interesting, if not surprising moves, was the decision to keep Ian Stewart on the roster despite an injury plagued season cut short back in June of 2011. As Andrew mentioned, one angle is that the Cubs front office honestly does see a productive return for Stewart on the North Side.
But on the flip side, Cubs fans may wonder in the back of their minds whether or not the decision is a reflection of the team’s desperation at third base or even the front office’s stubbornness to admit a mistake and move on.
The 2012 season saw the Cubs doing their best to play out the season. Stewart was succeeded by Joe Mather and Luis Valbuena before Josh Vitters got a chance to dip his toe in the Major League waters for the first time in August. Considering 2013 will be a similar rebuilding year, it would not be such a catastrophe to go through the season with a patchwork job at the hot corner.
Regardless of whether Vitters starts in the minors or busts out in Spring Training to consider having him with the Cubs on Opening Day, at some point in 2013 the Cubs front office would have to determine if Vitters has what it takes to be the answer at third base. The decision to keep Stewart around may be a signal that Theo Epstein and Company may have more doubts on Vitters than they are letting on. With no other immediate internal option that provides reasonable potential on the horizon, keeping Stewart around may be a desperate hope that the former Rockie can finally shake the wrist injury that has been nagging him for a few seasons now.
The retention of Stewart also brings up the question as to whether the front office is bent on proving the trade of Tyler Colvin for the third baseman was worth while. The trade report card was discussed here on Cubbies Crib back in July, and since then the former Cub first round draft by Jim Hendry has gone on to finish 2012 with a stat line of .290 BA with 18 HR and 72 RBI.
The front office has control of Stewart until 2015. Even though the arbitration process rarely sees players getting hit with a pay cut, at worst the Cubs should not be hit with much of a raise for Stewart from his 2012 salary of $2.24 million. For a couple million dollars against a reasonable budget that does not figure to get maxed out by the Cubs this off season, Epstein and Jed Hoyer may be willing to continue to be pot committed on Stewart after having dealt a former Cubs top prospect for him.