4:47 PM CST, December 6, 2012
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.
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