The Cubs almost took the decision making process to the wire Friday night, but eventually Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made the call to non tender third basemen Ian Stewart.
When the Cubs began tinkering with their 40 man roster several days ago, there was a bit of surprise on a couple of the names that had not been dropped. One of those was Stewart and I went as far as to wonder if Epstein was desperate or stubborn in trying to keep Stewart on board.
It remains to be seen as to whether or not the delayed decision was an attempt to monitor Stewart’s health progress until the last minute; or even the possibility of a handshake deal to sign a contract later in the off season without having to take an immediate hit on the 40 man roster. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reported that Hoyer did mention that the Cubs had the desire to sign their non tenders to minor league deals.
Stewart earned $2.3 million last season, and by tendering the third baseman, the Cubs would have risked a chance of going to arbitration and paying Stewart more than they would have liked, even if the arbiter were to decide in favor of the team over player.
Luis Valbuena was tendered on Friday night, and his 2013 salary figures to cap at $1 million or so. He would also represent, along with Josh Vitters, the current in house candidates for the third base job next season. Valbuena did not have impressive offensive stat lines, but there was a long stretch of the season where he had a knack for clutch run producing base hits.
The Cubs are also open to seeing what third base options are available around MLB, so it is also a possibility that we may have seen the last of Stewart in a Cubs uniform.