The names Luis Valbuena, Josh Vitters, and Ian Stewart in connection with the Cubs third base job have been well discussed over the last couple weeks. With Stewart being non tendered and the Cubs front office going into the Winter Meetings confirming that they were looking for a third baseman, the question of who exactly will fill the role is at risk of becoming a part of the Abbott and Costello comedy bit.
The latest news includes the announcement from which figures to be Stewart’s camp, stating that the former Rockie has received “a clean bill of health” regarding his wrist and hand problems. As a result, the interest from teams not named the Cubs has seemingly increased greatly. The Cubs would still be allowed to pursue resigning Stewart, something Jed Hoyer confirmed the team was open to doing, but it appears that there will be more competition now.
Mean while, there have also been a few other names that the Cubs have been rumored to be connected with. The first name that really popped up this off season was Jeff Keppinger, whom I discussed on November 27th. The latest the former Red and Astro is that the Yankees are putting a full court press on the infielder, now that super star Alex Rodriguez will be sidelined for potentially half the 2013 season. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier this afternoon that the bidding has reached $8 million over two years, a figure that may have already exceeded the Cubs budget for the position.
On Day One of the Meetings, it was revealed that the Marlins were looking to deal short stop Yunel Escobar, whom they recently acquired in their fire sale like mega trade with the Blue Jays. Jayson Stark of EPSN.com has mentioned that the Cubs are one of three teams that are “definitely in” on the right handed hitting Escobar. The Cubs eyeing the Cuban short stop is interesting for two reasons. The first involves a bit of controversy. Back in September, Escobar had written a phrase in his eye black that referenced a gay slur in Spanish. The Blue Jays handled the situation by suspending the infielder for three games and donating the lost salary to a pair of gay support groups. The long term consequence results in teams now having to second guess Escobar’s character.
The second revolves around the fact that Escobar is a short stop, a position currently filled by Starlin Castro. Hoyer has mentioned that the Cubs may need to get creative to fill third base. Would that include possibly moving Castro to the hot corner? Escobar did make his Major League debut at third base, so it is more likely that if he was acquired by Hoyer and Theo Epstein from the Marlins, Escobar would be the one making the move to third. The concern is that he has not played the position since his rookie year of 2007.
If neither of those rumored names suits your taste, we also have Yuniesky Betancourt on the rumor menu. According to MLB.com Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat, the North Siders are also considering the former Royal. The concern with Betancourt is that his 2012 numbers do not really offer much to get excited about. In limited action with Kansas City, he batted .228 with a .256 OBP with seven home runs and 36 RBI. However, in the two seasons prior he featured home run totals in the teens with twice as many RBI in almost a full season’s worth of games each year while posting a batting average in the .250’s. He is currently playing some Mexican Winter League ball to help improve interest in him and the positive side in considering him as an option would be that he figures to come at an affordable price.
More names may continue to pop up as the Winter Meetings continue (maybe Eric Chavez?), but for now “I Don’t Know” will really be manning third base until the Cubs take down the help wanted sign.