Right now the Cubs are looking to end the season strong with their sights already set on the 2015 regular season – but is Luis Valbuena going to be part of the team’s future beyond this season?
Although other questions are present, as well, a major focus of next year’s depth chart will surely be addressed before next season, and that just happens to be the hot corner.
Veteran infielder Valbuena was first picked up by the Chicago Cubs in 2012 after the Toronto Blue Jays decided to part ways with him on April 4.
The newly acquired Valbuena was called up from the Triple-A Iowa Cubs affiliate just two months later on June 14, allowing him to show the Cubs what he had to offer. He finished the 2012 campaign with four home runs, 28 RBIs, 20 doubles, and 58 hits on a batting line of .219/.310/.340 – leaving many to think he would never be more than a role player for the team moving forward.
Things would get better for the then 27-year-old Valbuena, who picked up more playing time at third base in 2013, considering how thin the team was with corner infielders at the time. His numbers went up after playing in 18 more games than he did in 2012, hitting a career high with 12 home runs, 37 RBIs and a slightly improved line of .218/.331/.378 – although he missed some time due to an injury.
Earlier this season, Valbuena was on an absolute tear, hoping to make a case for himself to the franchise.
So far this year he has hit a career-high 16 home runs, 48 RBIs and 108 hits on a .245/.329/.440 line, hitting seven home runs in August, and three in July. His future with the team could be in question as the Cubs grow closer to promoting 2014 Minor League Player of the Year Kris Bryant to the big leagues in 2015.
Bryant dominated the farm system, hitting a combined 43 home runs, 110 RBIs, 34 doubles, one triple, 160 hits and 325 total bases on a batting line of .325/.438/.661 between the organization’s Double and Triple-A affiliates.
There’s no doubt that Bryant will be joining a cast of prospects who turned a bunch of heads in 2014, but the team always needs a back-up plan just in case something were to go wrong. Valbuena is a valuable bat this team could use, if he’s willing to play for the right price. The Cubs and Valbuena agreed a one-year contract worth $1.71 million to avoid arbitration, but could ask for just above $2 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
What role will the corner infielder have in 2015? Is this the end of the road for his time in Cubbie blue?