Hopefully, Luis Valbuena will look back at his time at the 2015 Cubs Convention with fond memories. He may or may not have known at the time, but it was his last hurrah in a Chicago Cubs uniform.
Perhaps Valbuena's departure will be to his benefit. With "mega-prospect" Kris Bryant soon to begin his major league career with the Cubs, Valbuena's time at third base was beginning to dwindle. Had he stayed with the Cubs, he would likely be platooning the hot corner with Bryant once he arrived.
Here are Valbuena's stats with the Chicago Cubs:
|Luis Valbuena Chicago Cubs Statistics|
Currently, the Astros list Matt Dominguez as the No. 1 third baseman on their depth chart. Dominguez has just a .233 career batting average in 357 games. His fielding percentage is .968, three points higher than that of Valbuena.
Straily struggled in his short time with the Cubs, posting an 0-1 record and an 11.85 ERA in just seven games with the team. In his only start with the Cubs, Straily earned the loss against the New York Mets, allowing five earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched.
Here are Straily's stats with the Cubs:
|Dan Straily Chicago Cubs Statistics|
What the Cubs Lose
Quite frankly, the Cubs may not be losing much as a result of the deal. At most, the Cubs lose veteran experience at third base. With the departure of Valbuena, Chicago's options at third base (excluding the inevitable arrival of Kris Bryant) are now Mike Olt, Tommy La Stella, Arismendy Alcantara or Javier Baez. All of those players have little to no experience at the hot corner in the major leagues.
The Cubs also do lose a bit of power in Valbuena, who slugged 16 home runs for the Cubs last season, a career high for him. Fowler has hit only 48 home runs in seven years in the league. However, the eventual arrival of Kris Bryant may also bring about a power upgrade over Valbuena.
Fowler will command center field for the Cubs next season. In his seven seasons at the major league level, he played all but one inning in center field. He has a solid .983 fielding percentage, and his decent speed will bode well for the Cubs outfield.
The Cubs also will likely put Fowler in the leadoff role. Last season, he hit an impressive .393 while leading off an inning. Here are Fowler's career stats:
Fowler also stole 11 bases for the Astros last season. Only Emilio Bonifacio, who was acquired by the Chicago White Sox for the 2015 season, stole more bases. Arismendy Alcantara was second in stolen bases with eight. He will likely be switched to a utility role as a result of Fowler's arrival.
Here are Dexter Fowler's statistics heading into 2015:
|Dexter Fowler Stats, 2014 & Career|
Last week, Fowler asked for $10.8 million in arbitration and was offered $8.5 million by the Astros. His case will be picked up by the Cubs, and he will become a free agent after the 2015 season.
What the Trade Means for the Cubs
The Cubs certainly gained a lot with the acquisition of Dexter Fowler. Most significantly, they now have a solid leadoff hitter and some veteran experience in center field. Fowler also brings the option of a switch-hitter, another good trait to have in a leadoff hitter.
The Cubs don't lose much as a result of the trade. Third base will be eventually filled by Kris Bryant, who will still likely begin the season in Triple-A and be called up sometime in April or May.
If Bryant does indeed stay in the minors for the beginning of the season, it would be a great opportunity for the Cubs to try someone else at third base in the meantime, such as Javier Baez or Starlin Castro.
Though he has played third base for all of his minor league career, Bryant could switch to a less demanding position such as left field. Valbuena's departure would provide a good opportunity for the Cubs to experiment with such options.
The acquisition of Fowler isn't quite the splash made by players like Jon Lester or Miguel Montero, but it nonetheless is a solid move that will hopefully boost the Cubs offense and fill some holes on both sides of the ball.
Cross off one more item on the Cubs' checklist for becoming a championship contender.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.