According to the Associated Press, the Cubs and Rockies have orchestrated a move that sends versatile third baseman Ian Stewart and 26-year-old reliever Casey Weathers to Chicago for outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder DJ LeMahieu.
There have been enough rumors bouncing around the mill over the last week or so about the Cubs' apparent interest in Ian Stewart that this move will come as no shock to many. The only thing that might give pause is the addition of DJ LeMahieu in this package, although many don't see him as ready for prime-time in any serious role in the majors at the moment.
Just in this past week alone, I had written about the Cubs' interest in Stewart, on top of the fact that Colvin had no role with Epstein and the new crew calling the shots. The assumptions on Colvin becoming superfluous to the team became hard fact when David DeJesus was signed, and now the Cubs will wave goodbye to the over-hyped Colvin, who just never showed the ability to work on the liability that was his plate discipline.
For Stewart, replacing Aramis Ramirez will be no small task when it comes to production. In the field, although Ian is a middle-of-the-road defender, he is noticeable steps ahead of the atrocity that has become Ramirez's defensive effort and skill-set. So an uptick of infield defense is a nice, guaranteed bonus.
What Stewart also brings is legitimate power upside. He hit 18 home runs in less than 400 at-bats in 2010, and the 2009 season saw him belt 25 homers in only 425 at-bats. Luckily for the Cubs, he isn't a Rockie that struggles outside of Colorado. The split differences for him in this case are minimal, and Wrigley should be a nice middle ground where he can get a fresh start on a team building towards an expensive contender in the not-too-distant future.
Colvin goes to Colorado with the hope that he can battle for a starting role. Players like Tyler Colvin just don't tend to work out in full-time roles though. He succeeded extremely early on in his Cubs career when pitchers didn't quite realize yet that if you throw him breaking balls, he will literally swing at them regardless of their relation to his body, the plate, or the baseball diamond at large. He has power potential much like Stewart though, and could easily hit 20 home runs if he ever retained a full-time spot for enough time.
Yet another one of his flaws is that he needs to play an offensively minded corner outfield spot, where production is a necessity right off the bat. His subpar defensive skills only force him to start hitting immediately, or else it's just tough to tolerate him in the lineup at all.
LeMahieu was a bit of a surprising addition to this whole little scenario. Coming up in the minors as a second and third baseman, he does not really have power that translates well to the hot corner. Disappointingly, DJ also lacks any semblance of ability to take a walk, and the combination of those two flaws makes him a scary proposition facing Major League pitching. Some Cubs fans may miss him, but the majority will forget very quickly that he ever had his microscopic stay as a Cub.
Casey Weathers is a serious non-factor in this trade. He's a reliever, nearing 27, who can't get outs in Double-A ball. While he was a former closer prospect, he may never get time outside of the minors, and he really didn't add any discernible value to this whole deal.
Basically, if Stewart can come to Chicago and remind the baseball world why he was a very highly touted prospect and can hit 20-plus home runs while showing his patience at the plate and holding his own in the field, the Cubs brass couldn't be more content with this transaction.
Both Colvin and Stewart had worn their welcomes out on their original teams. The classic change of scenery could be just what they both need. It's a move that benefits both teams. Better to leave the judgment of the true winner for one year from now.
Cubs fans again may not feel euphoria from business- and talent-savvy deals like this Stewart trade or the DeJesus signing, but the Cubs are buying low on the right talent.
Buying low never usually causes dancing in the streets. I think Theo Epstein and Co. should at least be doing a small jig of sorts, though, as continued moves like this are exactly what the franchise needs to get back into shape. One step at a time.
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