Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

gods-wrathWould-be Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart is running at about 80 percent, but is able to take batting and fielding practice without issue. So, you’d like to think he’s very close to returning. As of a couple days ago, it was looking like he could return to game action later this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Not so, says Dale Sveum.

“It’s looking like the weekend now,” Sveum told the media yesterday, per the Tribune. “They’re still feeling it, both he and [Josh] Vitters. They’re still feeling stiffness when they’re jogging at 80 percent. Hopefully, maybe this weekend, but now it seems to be getting pushed back every day.”

This ongoing injury really bums me out, not because I necessarily believed Stewart was going to blow up this year, but because I believe the Cubs can’t surprise to the upside without someone like Stewart breaking out. Further, even if Luis Valbuena, for example, could closely approximate what a healthy Stewart could do, can the next utility guy on the depth chart approximate what Valbuena can do?

Like it or lump it, losing Stewart completely probably makes the Cubs worse. The longer he deals with this quad issue, then, the more my hopes wane.

At least Stewart is more optimistic than Sveum.

“It may be even earlier than [Friday],” Stewart said yesterday, per ESPN. “ Yesterday we tried running and there was a little tightness at around 80 percent. I basically did everything I need to do to prepare for a game. Now it is just the running part of it .”

There’s been a great deal of discussion this Spring about Stewart’s “non-guaranteed” deal, and how the Cubs can save a little money if they cut him before the Spring ends. Gordon Wittenmyer says Stewart’s odds of sticking on the team are shrinking with every day he doesn’t play. Bruce Levine and Paul Sullivan, however, say cutting Stewart really isn’t a realistic option.

My position has always been that (1) cutting guys on these arbitration-level, non-guaranteed deals is extraordinarily rare; and (2) the small chance that Stewart becomes a valuable player this year (to the Cubs, or in trade) is worth more than the $1.5 million they’d save by cutting him at the end of the Spring – even if he’s a little banged up. So, no, I don’t see the Cubs cutting Stewart.

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