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redeyechicago.com

Stewart signing a smart, low-risk move

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

4:47 PM CST, December 6, 2012

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Third base was the position that nobody could fill at the winter meetings, and after losing Jeff Keppinger to the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Cubs were smart to re-sign Ian Stewart.

Stewart is a solid defensive third baseman and still has a chance to emerge as a run-producing hitter, especially if his problems the last two seasons related to a wrist that was recently repaired through surgery.

While Stewart won’t excite Cubs fans, this is a good, low-risk signing. It may set the stage for a trade of Luis Valbuena, who is raising his stock by having a great winter with the Lara Cardinales in his native Venezuela. He has been playing a lot of second base and could move there for the Cubs, but it seems that Darwin Barney is locked in there. Another team could trade for him as a second baseman or a third baseman.

If Stewart has a strong first half, the Cubs can decide whether to hang onto him or shop him at midseason. Even though both Stewart and Valbuena hit left-handed, there is room for both on Dale Sveum’s roster, as Valbuena’s versatility makes him a candidate for a reserve infield role. The Cubs still will probably acquire a right-handed-hitting infielder who could get starts at third base against left-handers.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers