The Chicago Cubs are not-so-secretly on the market for a third baseman, and have been rumored to be interested in, among others, the Colorado Rockies’ Ian Stewart. The now-rumored asking price? Cubs’ utility player Blake DeWitt.
DeWitt, 26, is the same age as Stewart, but is more versatile and better defensively (at least at 3B). Both have three years of arbitration left, but DeWitt is expected to be considerably less expensive over the course of those three years (he’s eligible for arbitration for the first time after a $460k salary last year, where as Stewart is eligible for the second time after making $2.3 million last year). Stewart, however, has a much higher offensive ceiling after putting up huge numbers throughout his minor league career, and better numbers than DeWitt at the big league level.
Given those countervailing qualities, as well as the expendable nature of DeWitt given the presence of DJ LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty, you can see why the straight-up swap might make some sense for both teams.
The talks, the Denver Post says, however, have cooled, and might or might not pick back up next week.
The holdup, if I had to guess, has less to do with the Cubs being unwilling to part with DeWitt for Stewart than it does with the Cubs wanting to see what else they might be able to pull off at third base. In other words, if the Cubs feel like they still have a chance to pull off a trade for San Diego’s Chase Headley, a superior all-around player, they’ll want to hold the Rockies off.
The problem? The Cubs aren’t the only team interested in Stewart. Such is the delicate balance of the Winter for MLB teams – moves are not made in a vaccuum, and sometimes you have to pull the trigger on the “best you can do at the time” rather than risk ending up empty handed. That said, I strongly suspect the Cubs would make a best-and-final offer on someone like Headley before dealing for Stewart.
If the Cubs do make a move for Stewart, and assuming he’s handed the third base job, it will be hard to be particularly excited about that move, in isolation. The upside is nice, but the Cubs will quickly be running out of spots to add a significant bat.
I will say this: viewed in isolation (meaning Headley doesn’t exist, and the move doesn’t impact any other future moves), would I trade DeWitt for Stewart straight up if I were the Cubs? Oh heavens yes.