Before leaving Dallas and the Winter Meetings on Thursday, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer did manage to make one move. No, it wasn’t signing Albert Pujols or CJ Wilson (both of whom signed with the Angels), but instead it was a trade, acquiring third baseman Ian Stewart from the Colorado Rockies. They also acquired minor league pitcher Casey Weathers in the deal.
In exchange, the Cubs sent outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder DJ LeMahieu to Denver.
The trade smacks of one that the new regime would make. Both Stewart (wrist injury) and Weathers (Tommy John surgery) are coming off of injuries that they are still trying to fully recover from, but both could potentially make an impact in a new city. Stewart had a rotten 2011 campaign, hitting a meager .156 and knocking in six runs in 48 games. This comes after hitting 43 home runs combined between the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Weathers didn’t fare much better, pitching in AA ball for the Rockies’ organization two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery. In Tulsa, Weathers had a 2-2 record last year, sporting a 5.32 ERA and an unimpressive 1.75 WHIP. He struck out 48 batters and also walked 48 in 45 and 2/3rds innings pitched.
After the trade was consummated on Thursday, Hoyer expressed his feelings on the deal by saying that the Cubs wouldn’t have given up the talent that they did in the deal if they didn’t think Stewart would be their starting third baseman on Opening Day. ”We are expecting him to come in and he has to bounce back from last year,” he said. ”We are assuming he does. We are looking at him as our starting third baseman.”
Stewart seems to be a prototypical player that Cubs fans can expect to see Epstein and Hoyer gunning for. Underperforming, needing to have a bounce back campaign, and possibly cheaper because of an injury or other factors, these players are going to be solid hitters who can also wield a slick glove, and Stewart fits that description to a “T”. The wrist injury that hampered him last season in Colorado has cleared up, according to team doctors, and after having dealt with learning a new stance last year, Hoyer seems confident that Stewart will re-find his form in Chicago.
Stewart also happens to be left-handed, which is a needed commodity on a club defined by its reliance on right-handed bats in the lineup. Even with Aramis Ramirez gone, the Cubs still have Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Starlin Castro, and Geovany Soto as their for-sure starters, and they are all right handed. With that in mind, the team went after David DeJesus to lock down the right field job, and he and Stewart will both provide left-handed pop for the Cubs. With Carlos Pena declining salary arbitration, the Cubs will likely be looking for a first baseman as well, and they could continue to go for the lefties on the market (cough, Prince Fielder, cough).
As for getting rid of Colvin, it seemed to be an appropriate time to do so. Tony Campana provides better speed off the bench than Colvin does, and Tyler would not have been a starter barring injury in this lineup. Yes, he hit 20 home runs in 350 at-bats in the 2010 campaign, but he looked horrible last season, and so the Cubs did the right thing by letting him try to kick-start things in a new environment. He should thrive in the hitter’s paradise that Coors Field is known as, and he will likely get an opportunity to start there.
This is one of those trades that carries a decent amount of risk on both sides, but it also has the potential for some serious rewards as well. The team’s management is committed to Theo’s vision of fiscal responsibility and of rebuilding the farm system, and that’s exactly what they continue to do with the moves they have made this off-season.
Now, if only those pesky Prince Fielder rumors would go away…