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ian stewart and josh vittersIan Stewart shared additional thoughts on his demotion from the Cubs with Carrie Muskat, who was in Des Moines recently to take in the Iowa Cubs. The article offers more insight into Stewart’s “time off,” and into his decision to stick with the Cubs even as they demoted him (as we suspected, it was mostly about keeping his $2 million contract (which, I mean, I’d do the same thing)). It’s worth reading if you’re into this story.

The piece I’d like to highlight, however, is one small quote from Stewart, about when he was informed that he was going to be optioned to Iowa.

“I talked to Theo, and he was basically telling me that Vitters is the future at third for them,” Stewart told Muskat. “I understand that …. Josh is young and he’s a good player and has a lot of talent. That part did not surprise me at all.

“It was basically if I wanted to stay with the Cubs and accept my assignment here, they were letting me know I wasn’t going to play a lot here,” Stewart continued. “I don’t know if that was a way to get me to take my free agency, because there’s money involved in all of that.”

There are two pieces there worth discussing, the first of which I’ll dispense with quickly: in that second line, Stewart is implying that the demotion, and the subsequent benching at Iowa, were effectively designed to push Stewart out of the organization (and save the Cubs some money). It’s certainly possible, and it does seem strange that, even with Josh Vitters out with a quad injury, Brent Lillibridge is picking up starts at third, not Stewart. Given everything that’s happened, it’s plausible that the Cubs have simply had enough with Stewart at this point, and even Stewart doesn’t think he’ll play for the Cubs again.

But that Vitters piece of Stewart’s quote is far more interesting.

Now, then. It’s necessary to note up front that we don’t know exactly what Epstein said to Stewart, or what Epstein’s intent was in so saying. We don’t know what motivations are animating Stewart’s comments, and how he decided to frame them.

That is all to say that we don’t know that Epstein actually said, word for word, that the organization expects Vitters to be the future at third base. Indeed, were it so, that statement would fly in the face of various rumblings we’ve heard for the better part of two years, which have all suggested that the higher ups don’t believe Vitters can stick at third long-term.

It’s been easy to lose sight of Vitters. He bombed out in his debut last year with the Cubs, and he missed all of Spring Training with a bum wheel. It was essentially a foregone conclusion that he was going to be moved off of third to a variety of positions, or he was going to be moved out of the organization.

But … is he actually going to get a shot to be the third baseman of the future? I wouldn’t have thought it possible until this statement from Stewart. Not only did Vitters struggle in the bigs, and not only is his defense at third questioned by some, but there are some interesting third base options potentially arriving in short order, including Christian Villanueva, Arismendy Alcantara, Junior Lake … or maybe even Javier Baez or Jeimer Candelario further down the road.

But let’s not forget: Vitters had a great year at Iowa in 2012, all while he was young for the league. There is still plenty of offensive potential there, and maybe there’s a belief that he can do just well enough to handle third base. Many players have struggled in their first appearance in the big leagues, and last year was as much about giving Vitters a taste of what the bigs are like as it was about “testing” him to see if he could take the position and run with it. Vitters is still just 23, after all. Maybe there really is a future for Vitters at third base with the Cubs.

Or maybe the message got changed just enough in the game of telephone, and maybe Epstein was simply trying to impress upon Stewart that, for now, getting Vitters starts at third base at AAA was the priority over getting starts for Stewart. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Vitters is the guy at third base long-term. It just means that he’s slightly more likely to be the guy than Stewart.

And I’d say that sounds about right at this point.

  • itzscott

    Kinda feel sorry for Stewart at this point, but even he had to realize that Theo’s patience would run out at some point and he needed to show something/anything to keep everyone interested…. which he did not.

    • Dynastyin2017

      Anything Stewart says has to be taken with a grain of salt. As mentioned yesterday in the comments, Stewart fails to mention the fact he told the organization he wasn’t ready when he was due to come off the DL. I can’t feel sorry for him. I also can’t believe anything he paraphrases from Theo.

    • Ben (BG2383)

      I cannot feel sorry for someone that got 2$million to act like a baby. I do hope he figures it out though and can make a positive contribution to the team.

  • Stu

    Even if Vitters is not considered the future at 3rd base, Ian has to know that no matter what he does it is not going to matter to the Cubs. He was never going to be the long term answer at 3B.

    He could have tried to put more effort into trying to improve himself so that he could be picked up by another organization, but maybe he realizes after his Colorado experience and the Cubs experience that it is unlikely he will ever be given a shot again.

    Take his $2M, focus on his family and start a new career. This one is over. Still not a bad life.

    • Good Captain

      He almost certainly will not be handed a position much as happened here but I have no doubt that a handful of other teams (perhaps two handfuls) would be happy to sign him to a minor league contract next year as a NRI to see if maybe, just maybe, he’s more than sub replacement level 3B man. The lack of league-wide quality starting 3B men make this a low risk gamble worth taking IMO.

  • Eric

    It’s simply a case of Theo saying this guy is young, he’s an actual prospect and we have to give him the majority of playing time, to Stewart. Nothing more in my book.

  • 1060Ivy

    Wouldn’t put too much into the Vitters is ‘the future for them (Cubs) at third’ comment.

    A more appropriate translation of the Theo’s comment maybe, “Ian Stewart is NOT the future of Cubs at third.”

    • itzscott

      >> Wouldn’t put too much into the Vitters is ‘the future for them (Cubs) at third’ <<

      At the same time, what a huge motivator/endorsement/recognition/shot in the arm/etc that must be for Vitters…. which isn't a bad thing at all and maybe something he's needed.

  • Spencer

    I really feel like the Cubs don’t want anything to do with Stewart at this point. Maybe that’s deserving, but I’m not so sure. It seems like the Cubs’ disdain with him came after he took his full time to report to AAA. That’s fine, I guess, but is it fair that now they aren’t playing him at all and are doing everything in their power to push him out of the organization? It seems like sort of an over the top reaction to him wanting to take a little extra time with his family. It’s not like they can get mad at him for not playing well…that’s just part of baseball. It’s a tough situation for Stewart and his family.

  • mudge

    Keep shovelling, Ian.

  • Stu

    What is it about Ian that people feel anger and disgust about? Are there no other players that realize that they have no future in baseball and play out the contract that was freely offered to them?

    Remember, they came to him with the contract.

    • TWC

      Nice, Stu! It’s hard to make yourself look magnanimous while setting up a straw man, but you managed to pull it off with aplomb. Kudos.

    • Dynastyin2017

      I think Mudge’s comment answers your question. The more he talks, the less he’s liked. If he just finished out the year quietly at Iowa, no one would care. We’d just chalk it up to a gamble that didn’t work out.

    • Grant

      Non-tendering him was (I suspect) meant to be a wake-up call that he needed to get his act together. There were questions about his work ethic after last season, and after the patience the Cubs have shown him and his constant injuries, taking three days to report to the team he’d already been playing with (effectively giving the organization the bird for not promoting him after his awesome rehab performance) was the last straw.

      And to be clear, I’m in the minority of people who was happy we’d resigned him. I’d hoped he’d finally fixed his wrist and was optimisitcally looking forward to him manning the hot corner this year, but at this point, I’m done with him.

  • Stu

    Brett,

    Do you feel that Ian owes you and Cub fans an explanation?

    Just curious.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t understand what (or why) you’re asking.

    • ssckelley

      As a fan he does not owe me an explanation but since he is running his mouth off to reporters and Brett blogs it I might as well read it.

      No need to attack Brett for basically doing his job on this site. It’s not like he is blogging a conversation someone over heard via twitter. :D

  • 5412

    Hi,

    I think for $2 million, having Stewart in Iowa is good insurance. I am not holding my breath as far as Vitters being the 3B of the future. Two months from now, if his numbers don’t improve, the Cubs will be dumping him to get what they can.

    I also feel the current situation has less to do with him taking a weekend off to be with his wift, and more to do with his rehab last year where he disappeared and went home to do so.

    Let’s see the Cubs use Stewart as a DH for a bit and see what happens.

    regards,
    5412

  • arealpoy

    I feel like’s this is a case of Ian burning a bridge. For a guy who has been given a chance to get back to his previous production and possibly beyond, to see him come back through the media and drop little comments (some of which do not jive with ones made last month) is just a little smelly. But…if the FO is pissy over Stewart taking the three days, they need to get a grip. It’s in the CBA and it’s there for a reason. However, I’d be cool if they were pissed off because of his sense of entitlement. Guy strikes out more than a guy at Lilith Fair and thinks he’s getting a promotion? Yeah.

    I’m looking forward to both sides parting ways and moving ahead.

    • Whiteflag

      I agree. It will be nice to see the two sides part ways, but I have a feeling Stewart is a nut job. No player dedicated to the team takes the three ways, unless there is some sort of emergency. This isn’t Stewart’s first time putting his needs above the teams. He seems like a guy just here to collect a pay check. I almost think Theo’s comments (per Stewart) were a last stitch attempt to motivate him. If I am Stewart my response would be I’m going to bust my ass to change your mind.

      • Pat

        “It was basically if I wanted to stay with the Cubs and accept my assignment here, they were letting me know I wasn’t going to play a lot here,”

        He was told before deciding to accept the minor league assignment that he was not going to play. So he took his allowed three days. Big deal. Apparently he wasn’t going to play anyway.

    • Timmy

      Yeah the guy would have wanted to try to hit the ball first to secure his job. Rich whiners…

  • Rich

    How on Earth to you feel sorry for a player..Specifically this one?
    2 million bucks to practice and ride the bench…
    He got 2 million for his POTENTIAL..the Cubs gambled and lost.
    I would assume they want him to quit..and save money..and none of us would throw away
    2 million bucks EVER. He will ride out the season and get a chance somewhere to prove himself next season with a different organization where he will bash Theo and Co.
    All the potential is fine, he needs to produce to continue. Feel sorry..PLEASE….

  • Boogens

    “It’s tough, because when you’re put in that situation, you’re almost playing for the wrong reasons. … It wouldn’t really make sense for me to take a release or ask for free agency, because then I’d be giving up my contract, and that doesn’t make sense for me financially or for my family.”

    Wow. This is the line that really stuck out for me and defines Ian’s perspective. He’s rejecting the idea of leaving the Cubs to become a free agent because he would be playing for the wrong reasons? I don’t blame him for not leaving, collecting his $2 million and looking out for his family, but his faulty logic and lack of personal accountability is really twisted.

  • matt

    I don’t think it has anything to do with anything. It’s being analyzed too much. Essentially, it’s the front office telling him, there aren’t any ABs for him at any level. It wasn’t about the 3 day thing. That’s just been blown WAY out of proportion. Regardless if he had reported on time, (which I believe in the article, they had one day off, and the 2nd was rained out…so he only took one day off) the Cubs need to give Vitters ABs, so his chances were going to be limited. This was just the Front office being upfront with him. Ian also, had a choice, 2 mil, or try to catch on somewhere else…that’s an easy one to me if it’s potentially my last MLB check. I think maybe some time in the minors will help him, but not for the Cubs. That ship has sailed

  • 4017

    This is the way I see it: as far as our first base options go for 2013, he is the only one that has had some sort of success in the majors. Why not make the most out of every asset and give him a chance. Think Lahair.

  • willis

    Yeah there is no reason here to feel sorry for Stewart. He’s getting $2 million for basically doing nothing other than a few PH at bats and riding AAA pine. Any of us would love that life. He was a joke last year, promptly got injured this year, and has sucked since coming back to play. His not showing up for the 72 hours was a slight at the organization, while he was already on thin ice. Like others, don’t read too much into the Vitters comments. Stewart was going to be nothing but an block for Vitters’ development. Even he is bright enough to realize that. Now he’s just running his mouth to be a terd. And that’s all he is. What a waste of time, money and resources for this dude. Oh well, move long.

  • Rcleven

    Stewart is today’s first game starter.

  • ssckelley

    I would not read to much into the Vitters thing, he may or may not really be the Cubs 3rd baseman of the future. It all boils down to Theo basically telling Ian the Cubs have no plans for him so either sit on the bench, collect your paycheck, or walk.

  • Die hard

    He still can be next yrs backup at 3B and 1B if hits as should

    • Blublud

      Wow, I agree with you Die Hard. Even as a back up ar 3rd and 1st, he could still play some outfield. That would get his bat in the lineup for 200-250 PA’s. Wouldn’t be a bad utility option.

  • muley

    Not sure what Theo is seeing but after seeing Vitters up close on different occasions, I see a first baseman playing 3B.. The guy is poor fielding at 3B..

    • ssckelley

      Does it really matter what Theo said to Ian about Vitters? Bottom line is Ian is not part of the Cubs future plans. He could have named any one of the organizations 3rd baseman as the future and he would have basically been telling Ian the same thing.

  • Jp3

    Meh… This story is pretty simple, Theo gave Ian every opportunity to win 3rd base. Unfortunately I don’t think Stewart really cares about baseball anymore. Theo realized this and called him and said “hey Ian you can quit and save us the dough or you can keep showing up and we’ll pay you, let’s call it a lengthy severance pay. Just a heads up though, the fungos you take before the game will be the closest thing you’ll get to playing time. What’ll it be big guy?” Ian probably said something to the effect of “pay up man, I’ll bring my PSVita with me in the dugout”

  • ETS

    Could it be that Theo just increased Vitters’ trade value?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The cynical part of me thought that for a second, but it’s a pretty tenuous connection for Epstein to know that Stewart would retain the message well enough and then repeat it to the media.

  • dan

    Don’t forget we went through waivers and know one picked him up !!!!!

    • Rcleven

      No one picked up a 2MM contract connected to Stewart not Stewart him self.

  • TommyK

    Cue Whitney Houston: “I believe Josh Vitters is the future. Teach him well and let him play third base. . .”

  • João Lucas

    A little off topic, but Isn’t it so that if the Cubs were to release Stewart and he went ahead and signed with another team the Cubs would be on the hook only for the difference in the salaries? If it is, does it make any sense that they’re holding on to him?

    • Cubbie Blues

      Yes, but, the other team would only sign him on a minimum contract leaving us with $2 million minus league minimum salary.

      • João Lucas

        Sure, but if he manages to get a Major league deal, the Cubs save almost $500k (or, rather, a prorated portion of that amount). While it’s unlikely someone would sign him on a Major league deal right away, he might get a minor league contract and get the call-up later on in the season if he performs regularly and decently at AAA.

        What’s NOT going to happen is some team come ask for him if he’s on the bench in Iowa.

  • miggy80

    Brett if BN ever tanks I bet there’s a future for you as a marriage consoler. With your uncanny skills to break down a conversation.

    • miggy80

      consoler = counselor

  • jay

    Theo said that more or less to underscore the fact that Stewart is NOT in their future plans after the way he’s repeatedly rolled over on us. Whether they think Vitters will actually ever get it together is debatable.

  • Cubbie Blues

    I think I’ve said my fill on Stewart. So, I’ll leave it with a simple line.

    Stewart is a bitch.

    • willis

      LOL. Pretty much.

  • LouBrown

    Was Vitters hurt? It looks like he hasn’t played for a couple of days. Had a PH at bat today, but nothing else since the 17th.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Quad injury, yes. Day to day.

      • mudge

        From the Quad Cities game?

      • mdavis

        i won’t pretend to like stewart. his perceived lack of desire or motivation i think is evident. but i dont think anyone on this board would willinging walk away from that money.

        furthermore, from the articles on this, it sounds like he has really taken Vitters under his wing and kind of been a mentor to him, as well as be a good teammate down there. fair to debate if he’s the type of guy you want mentoring but thats another story.

        Also, Levine just did his chat on ESPN Chicago, and says that he confirmed with someone in the FO that they did tell Stewart that Vitters was the future at 3B. also, grain of salt and all that.

        • Cubbie Blues

          But, is that the future 3B at AAA or in the Bigs?

        • DocPeterWimsey

          heh, the perceived lack of desire/motivation is certainly evident: people keep posting it! There is no reason to think that it’s real, however: there is no association between desire/motivation and outcome in this world, despite what the fairy tales say. Between his (low) contact skills and inability to avoid getting injured, Stewart just did not have what it takes in the end.

          • Cubbie Blues

            He sure wasn’t motivated to get enough rest while recovering and before games. He had no desire to “report” to AAA. that is where his desire & motivations lie not the outcome. Now would he have recovered quicker and had a better line with his head on straight?

            • Cubbie Blues

              Dangit, I said I wasn’t going to comment.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              ? Staying up late has nothing to do with not being motivated to get rest. I have major sleep deprivation problems and still stay up late all the time. Motivation? No. Like many people, I am incapable of going to sleep early and it’s the only time I am truly productive. (I consider “morning people” to be unmotivated and lazy because they are not working at midnight, you see.)

              As for not having a desire to go to AAA, well, who can blame him? When you suffer such a severe setback to your career goals, then any motivated person is going to have need of a major cooling-off person. Indeed, I would have worried more if he did report right away: that would suggest that he didn’t take something so crushing all that hard.

          • OCCubFan

            “There is no reason to think that it’s real, however: there is no association between desire/motivation and outcome in this world,”

            Doc, I think you have overstated the case. Surely, when recovery from an injury requires a lot of hard, boring work, then a person who is is motivated and has a high desire to succeed is more likely to do the necessary hard work diligently. If there is inadequate rehab, then recovery is poor or incomplete.

            Also, a person needs motivation (inner desire, a wish to be famous, or money) to put in the work necessary to maximize his or her innate talent. You are undoubtedly both talented and successful in your field, but had you not gone to graduate school and studied, you would not have been successful.

  • LouBrown

    Might be some paraphrasing on Stewart’s part. But who are you going to give at AAA bats to: a vet on a single year contract, or a 23 year old 3B prospect who had an .870 OPS last year, and a .773 OPS this year (in limited games) at AAA? He is the highest level 3B prospect at this point. If Vitters were 27, I would understand the suprise. But as it stands you can let him start all year at Iowa, and let a 24 year old compete for a roster spot next spring. Maybe let him and Lake split starts at third, OF, and first, in Iowa, so you get them each plenty of ABs.

  • Bigg J

    Small pickup as Cubs claim Eduardo Sanchez from Cards

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