Is Ian Stewart … Blake DeWitt Version 2.0?

As Cubs fans endure yet another report of third baseman Ian Stewart still not being ready for action after suffering a quad injury and starting the season on the disabled list, I am humorously reminded of former Cubs’ left-hander Steve Barber. As a member of the 1969 Seattle Pilots, Barber was immortalized in Jim Bouton’s groundbreaking 1970 novel Ball Four. Barber pitched in 25 games for the Pilots, but was constantly battling injuries and telling management he would be ready “in a few days”. In a 1980 update of the book, Bouton poked fun at Barber in a “Where are they now” section, saying “His arm is feeling better than it has in a long while – but it’s still a little stiff.”

On a more serious note, the saga that is Ian Stewart continues to compound one of the biggest mistakes under President Theo Epstein’s watch. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer not only traded OF Tyler Colvin and IF D.J. LeMahieu for Stewart, they also lost LHP Jeff Beliveau after designating him for assignment in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Stewart after he was re-signed this off-season. Moreover, it closely resembles probably the second biggest mistake made by the duo, the re-signing of IF/OF Blake DeWitt.

To back things up a bit, Blake DeWitt was acquired by former Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry on July 31, 2010, along with pitchers Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit from the Los Angeles Dodgers for LHP Ted Lilly, IF Ryan Theriot and cash. In 2011, DeWitt hit .265/.305/.413/.718 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 121 games, rotating between second base, third base and the outfield. With his lackluster results, along with the progress of infielders such as LeMahieu, Ryan Flaherty, Marwin Gonzalez, and Josh Vitters, as well as a new management team, it seemed as if DeWitt’s days with the Cubs were numbered.

But on December 8, 2011, both Flaherty and Gonzalez were selected in the Rule 5 Draft despite there being room on the 40-man roster to protect them. Later that day, LeMahieu and Colvin were traded to the Colorado Rockies for Stewart and RHP Casey Weathers. Four days later, both IF/OF Jeff Baker and DeWitt were tendered contracts and avoided arbitration. While chronologically appearing to be a reaction to what had preceded, rumors persisted that the decision to tender Baker and DeWitt was made prior to the Rule 5 Draft and the trade. Those rumors sprouted legs when Colvin, Flaherty, Gonzalez, and LeMahieu were becoming important parts of their new clubs, and were further fueled by a massive purge by the Cubs of their minor league executives late last year. In the off-season, the front office admitted that mistakes were made.

After signing, Blake DeWitt was designated for assignment in order for the club to claim IF Adrian Cardenas on waivers. After passing through waivers, DeWitt was given a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, and broke camp with the parent club to begin the season.  DeWitt would go on to hit .138/.133/.172/.306 with only one RBI in 18 games before being designated for assignment again, and once again for Cardenas to take his place. Upon finally reporting to Iowa, he then played in 30 games and hit .127/.246/.157/.403 with five RBI before being placed on the disabled list. Once there, DeWitt faded into oblivion until the club announced his release following the 2012 season.

That brings us back to Ian Stewart. With his balky leg, and, as some would suggest, his balky attitude, he is not going to be ready to open the season on the active roster. The Cubs seem prepared to move on without him, with Luis Valbuena, Brent Lillibridge, and Steve Clevenger odds-on favorite to fill at third base. It appears that the best solution for Stewart is to use his remaining minor league option to send him back to Iowa, placing him on the disabled list with the I-Cubs. In any instance of desperation, Stewart can be summoned back to Chicago to finish out his contract. Hopefully, it will never come to that, and Stewart will become nothing more than a distant, painful memory. Just like Blake DeWitt.

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  • Shawon O’Meter

    Fun or should I say not so fun look back Tom. I agree Stewart has been a complete bust but I continue to not be able to understand the hand wringing we often see on here over Ryan Flaherty. He was really pretty terrible last year and no longer has youth on his side. If he was still in our system and we were counting on him for anything we’d be up in arms over that. His season last year is really one of the only ways Valbuena looks slightly less horrible.

  • Tony_Hall

    Ian Stewart – 179 AB’s 201/292/335
    Ryan Flaherty – 167 AB’s – 216/258/359
    Marwin Gonzalez – 205 AB’s – 234/280/327
    DJ Lemahieu – 229 AB’s – 297/332/410
    Tyler Colvin – 290/327/531

    First – I would rather have all these guys in our system then not. But we didn’t give up any difference makers with any of these moves and we were trying to fill a need. It hasn’t worked, but I think you keep beating a dead horse on this one.

    At first glance Flaherty and Gonzalez were bad, with OBP that are not even good AVG’s. They might turn into All-Stars, but I doubt it.

    DJ is going to hit for a good average, but is a singles hitter. Which for me, makes him a 2B, not a 3B and at 2B he would not beat out Barney at this point. Not enough defense to make up for being a singles hitter.

    Colvin’s number look good as well until you dig deeper into the home/road splits. At home in Coors Field he is a great hitter. 338/380/652….ok, maybe not great, but I’d take that for a corner OF. But maybe he doesn’t like plane rides or maybe it’s the Coors Field affect as on the road he hits 244/274/413….not good at all.

    Stewart is and has been hurt. People don’t like his attittude. But right now he is our property and getting something out of him is better than not, unless we need the roster spot.

    Beliveau – I get the direct link to Beliveau being released and Stewart being added, but what about Nate Schierholtz, and Sandy Rosario. Rosario was claimed on the same day as Believeau and no one is crying about losing him. Schierholtz was officially signed on the same day as well. We also sent Concepcion off the 40 man on that same day. This thought that we gave up Beliveau to get Stewart is just not right and makes no sense to keep bringing it up.

    • 07GreyDigger

      This is a great look at these players. To say they were important pieces lost over Stewart is ludicrous.

      Flaherty was a 25th man on a winning team and his career seems likely to follow the trajectory of Jake Fox, good power potential not much else.

      Gonzalez was a backup SS for a 100 loss team and will likely never amount to anything.

      Colvin had a great year at home, but was lousy on the road, typical for Colorado players.

      Lemahieu is nothing but a backup infielder.

      No one knows what you’ll get out of Jeff Beliveau, but was likely claimed because he throws with his left arm.

      So what did we really lose? Looking forward to the next Ian Stewart bashing article.

      • Ripsnorter1

        If Lemahieu gets 500 AB this year, will he still be a backup INF?

        • Tony_Hall

          He won’t.

          3B Chris Nelson
          Backup 3B Jordan Pacheco

          2B – Josh Rutledge
          Backup 2B – DJ Lemahieu or J Herrera

          Our other ex-star Colvin is listed as the
          4th LF
          3rd CF
          2nd RF
          4th 1B

        • 07GreyDigger

          Lemahieu is about as likely to get 500 ABs this year as you are to say Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are doing a good job as GMs! :)

    • Aaron

      That’s completely false about Beliveau. Tom was absolutely right that the decision to offer a contract to Stewart DIRECTLY had an impact on a roster spot, and thus, they thought they could somehow pass Beliveau through.

      Tom was also absolutely correct about how it resembled the DeWitt conundrum. I was saying it at the time, and I’ll say it again…that was a black eye on Team Theo. They certainly got mud on their face with the Colvin/LeMahieu deal and the handling of the DeWitt and Stewart situations.

      But that’s the unfortunate thing, because they’ve done so many other good things with the draft and international signings. And my take, and Tom’s take also ignore the future, as guys like Baez, Candelario, Soler, Almora, Jackson, etc. have a much higher ceiling than anyone we lost………BUT THAT IS THE FUTURE!!!!!!! Right now, we could have 3B solved temporarily (LeMahieu), and LF/RF solved with the ability to trade Soriano and feel fairly comfortable doing so (Colvin).

      I understand and appreciate what the new regime is doing, I just think they were extremely misinformed about the inherited players last year. Now that they have their own talent evaluators in there, I believe their roster management will improve significantly.

      • The Maven

        A++ effort Aaron

      • Richard Hood

        I think also if we would have kept Colvin and LeMahieu it would have given us a better position in our trade for Rizzo. We gave up our number 1 serviceable arm in Cashner because we had nothing else that the Padres needed.

        I am not making excuses for Team Theo they dropped the ball. They have said so and I tend to agree but there was plenty of people that were hold overs in upper management that should have known what the Cubs had in the upper minors that needed to be protected.

        So yes it was the GM and President that took the blame for a horrible knowledge of personnel.But there was more than enough to go around which I think is why we saw such movement with the upper guys of the developmental team.

        • Vivid_Reality

          I don’t think Colvin or DJ would have helped us acquire Rizzo. Quite frankly I’m surprised it only took Cashner.

          Look at it this way. Cashner had all the potential in the world but had only eclipsed 100 innings once in his career. He was extremely injury prone and was already 25 when he was traded. At that point his career was destined for the pen. DJ was a player I loved but didn’t have much trade value. I saw him as a super sub who could fill in for DL stints. Colvin was the only real loss but who knows how that would have actually played out for us.

          • paul john catanese

            Let us not forget, Rizzo has played but 1/2 a season with the Cubs. While I think he will be successful, it still is not a full year.
            He did not fare too well in the WBC and has not looked great so far.
            He also needs time to develop, but I would have him stay right where he is at, at first base, with the Cubs. Sink or swim, first base should be his for the whole year.

          • triple

            I wouldn’t say he didn’t do too well in the WBC… His BA may not reflect it, but he came up with clutch hits and played stellar (gold glove type) defense at first base. Yes, he was only 4/17, but had 2 doubles, 6 RBIs, scored 4 runs, 5 BB with only 3K’s, and his OBP was .409. If he wasn’t on the team, I don’t think that they would’ve gotten past the 1st round. I think the fact that he got to play some competitive baseball while being in a leadership role in the clubhouse, and have conversations with Mike Piazza about hitting will pay off in the end.

            Also, Rizzo batting 3rd was the end of the line of good batters for Italy, so he didn’t really see a lot of good pitches to hit either.

          • Richard Hood

            There was a need in SD for a number of things not just a high ceiling arm. If we would have kept DJ, Colvin, Flaughtery, and others then we had more pieces to make something work. Not saying that we could have gotten Rizzo with just one of those guys but it gave more options to work a deal out is all I am saying.

      • Tarzan Joe

        if their roster mgmt is to improve; and everything you said I agree with, but bringing stewart back is not an improvement nor was giving 3.1M to a middle relief 25 yr old Cuban suspect. nor is giving 6M to baker who is injured. that’s 11M! (not to mention 6M to concepcion who does not project as a prospect at all).
        assuming this team will be good by 2016 and that’s the earliest this can happen as almora and vogelbach won’t be ready till then not to mention all the rookie and low A pitchers; then save the 11M for that year or the renovation.

      • Tony_Hall

        If Lemahieu was our 3B, the same people would be complaining that we have a 3B who is a singles hitter. Of the players we have traded away, and those that are listed today, Lemahieu is the only one that I wish was still around, but not as a 3B, that’s for sure.

        My point on Beliveau is that other players were released at the same time and afterwards. That if you are #40 on a 40 man roster, you will eventually be cut for someone. Fujikawa or Schierholtz would have been the next ones and Beliveau wouldn’t have made it the new year as a Cub. To link it to Stewart is short sighted.

    • triple

      Yeah, people are pissed about Beliveau… Besides the fact that he’s a lefty, I don’t know why people even care. Maybe I’m missing something, but at 26 and destined for middle relief, we can replace him with just about anybody and not miss him.

      • Vivid_Reality

        Show me a lefty in our system that struck out over 10k/9 in 5 straight seasons. Whether or not he would have figured it out in the majors remains to be seen but he never got a fair shake in Chicago.

        • triple

          Fair enough point… but the one stat that is favorable for this situational lefty is still yet to be a reality as a major league reliever. Kind of fits in the same camp as the people who are upset about Flaherty being taken in the Rule 5 draft.

        • Tony_Hall

          Check out his walk numbers….no great loss.

          • Vivid_Reality

            He had sketchy control early in his career which improved as he progressed through the minors. You can get away with a below average walk rate when your k/9 is that high. I’m not going to say he would have turned into something special but he could have been a very serviceable set-up man. Marmol has been dominant at times in his career and his control is as bad if not worse than Beliveau.

          • Tony_Hall

            Last year at AAA his WHIP was 1.409. He was dominate in 2011 at Daytona and Tennessee, but Iowa got to him. HIs ST numbers have been astronomical with this years 1.941 being good compared to last year. If he was right handed, no one would have noticed he was gone. I wish him the best to make it in the majors, but I don’t see him being a big loss.

          • Ray Ray

            Check out James Russell’s WHIP in the minors if you are basing his future on one year at AAA. Beliveau has a higher ceiling than Russell. He might not ever reach it but his ceiling is higher.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not sure if his ceiling is higher as Russell has already been a good lefty set-up guy, and I really doubt anyone is projecting Beliveua even at that level. But true enough point that players can turn it around. But we are only allowed to keep players for so long without putting them on the 40 man roster and then we are only allowed to protect 40 players on it. It’s a numbers game, that he was going to lose this off-season one way or another.

  • Ripsnorter1

    It’s sad, isn’t it? Team Theo had an entire year to fix the mess at 3B and their only solution is Luis Valbuena.

    What’s even sadder to me is that the Kool-Aid is so powerful that the Cubs’ faithful are still singing the praises of the greatness of Team Theo when roster management and talent evaluation of the ML level and upper MiL leagues has been worse than the last administration. (Whether they have done better at the lower levels has yet to be proven). What has been proven is that the Kool-Aid is very powerful.

    It’s another tough year for the Cubbies.

    • Tony_Hall

      The cupboard was pretty bare at the upper levels, when Theo started inspecting his new home. 3B was slim pickings out there as well the last 2 years.

      Who would you have put at 3B?

      Are you trying to say that the 40 man roster (ML level and uper MiL) is worse off today than it was when they took over? Not sure what the anti-koo-aide drink is, but if you are saying this, then you need to put that bottle down.

      • Cubs1967

        Lets review facts; 2011 cubs lost 91. 2012 lost 101. The 40 man is worse or that would not of happened. The 2013 team will lose more than 91 too. We hope the GM will make team better; so far the facts show otherwise.

        • Brp921

          your right about losing more games in 2012 than 2011 I’m just not convinced its because the 40 man roster was worse, or better for that matter. What you failed to mention was that the 2011 roster was not going anywhere. It was older and had a lot of bad contracts. They also didn’t get dismantled at the trade deadline. I’m not claiming that Theo is a savior but he and the front office have made a lot more good moves than bad ones. We Cub fans finally have an owner who at least wants to win and has put together a team who have experienced success in the past and that gives me hope. I am excited about the future for a change. I believe Ricketts will get the job done eventually if not with this regime then another one.

      • triple

        anit-kool-aide drink = hateraide.

        Some people here got kegs of the stuff!

      • Ripsnorter1

        Some are predicting playoffs. Just go back and read the posts after the Jackson signing.

    • SuzyS

      Rip, you bring a smile to my face every time you make an outlander statement…designed to ruffle the feathers of all.

      Yep, another tough year for the Cubbies at the majors…but thank the leprechauns, elves and fairies that JH is truly gone…along with McPhail and the managements of Cubs past.
      I do indeed believe a world series is coming to the North Side…in my normal lifetime.

      Your naysaying always substantiated with manipulated numbers…(numbers can always be manipulated to prove one’s point of view) is fun to watch the comments they generate.
      I always appreciate your comments!!!

      “The forecast for tonight is dark, followed by dawn”.
      …and that is indisputable!!!

      • Ripsnorter1

        My “outlander” statements are not designed to
        ruffle feathers, but rather to sober up those intoxicated by the Kool-Aid. : )

        As for manipulated numbers….nah!

        • SuzyS

          Rip…third has been tough for every team this year if they did not already have it covered….You can’t fault management for that at this point….If we’re still talking about a year from now…you’ll have a valid point.

          Ruffled feathers/sobering intoxication…just semantics!!!
          It’s still brings animated dialogue…Thanks.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I wonder if Baez might even get some swings in the Bigs this year. He’s got quite a buggy whip power stroke. I know they’ll be talk of rushing him, but he looks impressive.

          • triple

            If Baez stays healthy, has a good season in the minors and even reaches AA, I really think he would get brought up to the big league team when they can expand the rosters. Why not give him that taste to further motivate him? As well as getting another slice of big league coaching to continue his development.

            And Rip, I always appreciate your contrarian posts, whether I agree or not. At least you are always willing to back up your statements.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Thank you, Triple. I love the CCO and all the posters here. It’s a great place.

            Baez–I hope I am not too enthusiastic, but he looks like he’s going to progress through the system like Castro did. I hope that continues. He could end our 3B or 2B problem.

  • Aaron

    I am NOT advocating for this, so keep that in mind, but the Dodgers just released Dallas McPherson, the former top 3B prospect (he’s 32 now). With Stewart down, uncertainty with Valbuena, and the need for Lillibridge to move all over the field, it might be worth a shot to land McPherson, and see what he can do. If he flames out, who really cares….it just gives Vitters more time.

    • 07GreyDigger

      McPherson is the same player as Stewart minus the ability to field. May not be the best choice with a young pitching staff. Kudos to thinking outside the box!

    • SuzyS

      Aaron, I really hope Vitters sees Wrigley field as a home town player again…I’m rooting for him…but also have really grave doubts about whether we’ll see him again in Cubbie Blue at Wrigley…Man I hope I’m wrong.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Honestly, I’d say….FORGETABOUTIT!

        He hit .116 with no plate discipline and no power. OUCH! I don’t think you’ll see him in Wrigley before September–if then. I think he’s done as a Chicago Cubs’ prospect.

  • mutantbeast

    Kevin Kouzmanoff, Dallas McPherson, or even trying to trade for ex-cub farmhand Josh Donaldson would have been preferable to what the Cubs now have. Oddly, my take is offensively, Clevenger is probably the best option, Valbuenna has never hit in the majors and Lillibridge hit .195 in the AL last year.

  • D.T.

    Couldn’t disagree with you more on this. His leg will heal, and if his wrist is healthy he has tremendous power and a great glove. The three other options you mentioned have a combined career total of 14 HRs. That would be pathetic at 3B. Stewart is by far our best option at this point. Get him healthy and let him play.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Alright! Another Ian Stewart supporter! That means there is at least 3 of us!

      • triple

        Don’t leave me off that list! Stewart still offers way more upside than any other option… I’ll admit I’m getting tired of this whole saga myself, but it’s not my $2 million, and the Cubs don’t project as a playoff team anyway, so what does it hurt to remain patient and see what he can do this year when, errr, if he gets healthy.

  • Jim Canavan

    I just hope this doesn’t become a 30 year problem…

    • Ripsnorter1