One year ago on the last day of the Winter Meetings, the Cubs made a deal to acquire Ian Stewart from the Rockies. One year later, Stewart received a new deal with the Cubs. The third baseman has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract. The money is a slight drop from the $2.2375 million Stewart made last year, but he has a chance to make another $500,000 in incentives. The money also is non-guaranteed, so if he isn’t healthy after undergoing wrist surgery, the Cubs are not obligated. The Cubs did talk to free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger about playing third, but he signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox. The free agent market was thin, and the Cubs did like Stewart enough last year to trade Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to the Rockies for him.
— Carrie Muskat
Send your questions to CubsInbox@gmail.com.
Q: With the Cubs showing they can win games and doing it well, what kind of record would the team have to put together over the second half to get a Wild Card? Not that I think by any means this will happen but I am curious. — Jeremy B., Denver, CO
A: You can dream. The Cubs are 36-52 as of today, and would have to go 45-29 just to get to .500 (81-81). They are on a good pace, with a 12-4 record since June 25. If the season ended today, the Braves and Pirates would be Wild Card winners. The Cubs are currently 13 games back.
Q: What are the team batting/OBP numbers/slugging percentage before and after Rudy Jaramillo was dismissed? — James B., Fredonia, NY
A: From April 5-June 10, the numbers were .247 batting average/.304 on-base percentage/.385 slugging percentage. From June 12-July 15, the numbers are almost the same, .249/.293/.388. What’s different are the pitching numbers. In the first 60 games, the Cubs were 20-40, the pitchers had a 4.39 ERA and converted seven of 18 save opportunities. In the last 28 games, the pitchers have a 3.93 ERA and have converted 10 of 11 save opportunities.
Q: Is Tony Campana in the Cubs’ plans after the All-Star break or is he on the trading block? In the 15 days prior to the break, he only got into 10 games, during which he came to the plate in five of them. — Pete V., Xenia, OH
A: In 21 games in June, Campana hit .237 (14-for-59) and had an on-base percentage of .250. That’s why he’s not getting more starts. He can’t steal bases if he can’t get on base. He’s the perfect 25th man, used as a pinch-runner, defensive sub.
Q: Can Bryan LaHair win Rookie of the Year? — Jeffrey B., Zion, IL
A: No. A player is considered a rookie unless during the previous season he has, No. 1, exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the big leagues, or, No. 2, accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League team during the 25-man limit in effect from Opening Day until Aug. 31. LaHair started this year with 195 Major League at-bats and 100 days service time.
Q: With Ian Stewart looking like he could miss the rest of the season, is there any chance that Theo and Co. will call up surging slugging, Josh Vitters? He hasn’t played 162 games in Triple-A but he has a lot of Minor League experience and with Javier Baez hot on his trail, this may be his only opportunity. — Dean S., Northbrook, IL
A: Baez is a shortstop, so he’s not a threat to Vitters. The Cubs are watching Vitters and Brett Jackson just as closely as they monitored Anthony Rizzo. On Saturday, GM Jed Hoyer said Vitters and Jackson need to show they deserve a promotion.
“Those guys need to force the issue, I would say,” Hoyer said. “Like we talked about with Rizzo, when they sort of prove to us that they’re ready and make it clear, then I think that’s something we’ll see.”
Through Sunday, Vitters was batting .301 with 13 home runs, 28 doubles and 51 RBIs, and had a great June, when he hit .324. His defense is a little suspect. Jackson was batting .256 through Sunday, and coming off a .282 June, but he struck out 50 times in 29 games that month. As for Stewart, he is done for the season.
Q: The extraordinary number of strikeouts by Brett Jackson makes me wonder the obvious. Have they tested his vision? — Eric H., Brandon, FL
Q: When is Jorge Soler expected to join the Major League team? — Christopher T., Chicago
A: Soler is 20 years old, and has yet to play in a game in the Mesa Rookie League. Sorry, my crystal ball is a little fuzzy and won’t give me an exact date.
Q: Sitting here watching the final three innings of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game. This game is seldom mentioned as one of the all-time greatest games ever pitched. A 20-year-old ties a MLB record and the only hit was an infield single. A 1-0 game to boot. Any thoughts? — Jim R., Indio, CA
A: Wood’s 20 K game is my favorite of all time.
Q: Other than Wayne Terwilliger and Eddie Miksis, who else wore No. 21? — Sheldon D., Key West, FL
A: Jason Marquis, Tyler Colvin, Sammy Sosa, and now, Joe Mather.
Q: Please evaluate the Colvin and Marshall trades. The new front office shows they are not what they’re cracked up to be. They both stink. I’m holding my breath as we get down to the trading deadline. — Dwight A., Findlay, OH
A: The Cubs knew Stewart had a questionable wrist when they acquired him for Tyler Colvin (yes, Stewart did take a physical), but the team was ready to move on regarding Colvin. You have to admit his .150 average last season wasn’t very impressive. The Rockies did well in that deal as Stewart is done for the year. But I’d say the Reds and Cubs both got what they wanted in their deal which sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Roni Torreyes. James Russell has taken over the left-handed set-up role for the Cubs, Wood has won his last four starts, and Torreyes got off to a rough start but batted .330 in June and was hitting .304 in 12 games this month.
A perfect trade benefits both teams. How would you grade the deal for Rizzo? How about the pickup of Luis Valbuena? What about moving Marlon Byrd?
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs will have a new third baseman, first baseman, right fielder and most likely three new starting pitchers in 2012. Who knows what the bench will look like. You’ve followed the team all winter. What offseason move surprised you the most? Here are some suggestions to get the discussion started:
* Trading Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins. Big Z met with Theo Epstein and promised he would do whatever it takes to get back in the Cubs’ good graces but apparently the team wasn’t convinced. They will pay a huge chunk of Zambrano’s contract and received Chris Volstad in return.
* Naming Ian Stewart as the starting third baseman. Stewart is coming off a tough season in which he batted .156 with zero homers and six RBIs in 48 games with the Rockies. Aramis Ramirez has driven in seven runs in a game twice.
* Signing David DeJesus as the right fielder. DeJesus, who has a career OBP of .356, is projected as the Cubs’ leadoff man.
* Trading Sean Marshall to the Reds. Marshall was one of the most reliable lefty set-up pitchers in the game. James Russell, John Gaub and Scott Maine will compete for that spot.
* Dealing Tyler Colvin (to the Rockies) and Andrew Cashner (to the Padres). Both were first-round picks by the Cubs.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs acquired infielder Ian Stewart and right-handed pitcher Casey Weathers from the Rockies for outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder DJ LeMahieu.
Stewart, 26, is a career .236 hitter with 61 doubles, 54 home runs and 187 RBIs in 432 games with the Rockies covering all or part of the last five seasons (2007-2011). A left-handed hitter who throws right, he has played 354 of his big league games at third and also has experience at second base and the outfield. Originally selected by Colorado in the first round (10th overall) of the 2003 Draft out of high school, Stewart reached the big leagues at the age of 22 in 2007 and completed his first full season in the big leagues by 2009, when he hit 25 home runs and recorded 70 RBI in 147 games for Colorado and helped the club to the postseason. He batted .256 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI in 122 games in 2010.
He split the 2011 campaign between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, totaling two stints in each spot. He batted .156 with six doubles in 48 games with Colorado and hit .275 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs in 45 games at Colorado Springs.
Weathers, 26, was selected by the Rockies in the first round (eighth overall) of the 2007 Draft out of Vanderbilt University, where he was a 2007 First-Team All American. By 2008, Weathers had advanced to Double-A Tulsa and earned a spot on Team USA at the Beijing Olympics before being sidelined by Tommy John surgery in October 2008, forcing him to miss the 2009 campaign.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Weathers returned to the mound in 2010 and pitched at Double-A Tulsa last season, going 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA (27 ER/45.2 IP) in 44 relief appearances. He struck out 48 in 45 2/3 innings, but also issued 48 walks. Weathers was added to Colorado’s 40-man roster following the 2010 campaign.
Colvin, 26, batted .215 with 26 home runs and 78 RBIs in 221 games with the Cubs covering all or part of the last three seasons. After a 2010 rookie campaign that featured a .254 batting average, 20 home runs and 56 RBIs in 135 contests, Colvin split last year between Chicago and Triple-A Iowa, batting .150 with six home runs and 20 RBI in 80 big league games. He was originally selected by Chicago in the first round (13th overall) of the 2006 Draft.
LeMahieu, 23, made his Major League debut with the Cubs last year and batted .250 (15-for-60) with zero home runs and four RBI in 37 games. LeMahieu was originally selected by the Cubs in the second round of the 2009 Draft.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs and Rockies are reportedly talking about a trade in which third baseman Ian Stewart would go to Chicago in exchange for outfielder Tyler Colvin. Such a swap would make sense for both teams. Stewart, 26, batted .156 in 48 games with the Rockies, and .275 with 14 homers and 10 doubles in 45 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs. In August 2007, he was called up to the Rockies when Jeff Baker had to go on the DL. Stewart made his Major League debut on the day he was called up, Aug. 11, and hit a grand slam 10 days later for his first home run. This year, he got off to a rough start this year, and was sent down to Triple-A on April 19. Colvin, 26, batted .150 in 80 games with the Cubs and hit six homers and drove in 20 runs. In 2010, he hit .254 with 20 homers, 18 doubles and 56 RBIs. A change of scenery may be good for both players.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs have a new right fielder as GM Jed Hoyer made his first on-field transaction Wednesday, signing David DeJesus to a two-year contract with an option for a third year. DeJesus will earn $4.25 million each of the next two years, and the 2014 option year is for $6.5 million with a $1.5 million buyout.
“We don’t see him as a platoon player,” Hoyer said of DeJesus. “Does that mean he won’t get days off against tough lefties? I’m sure we’ll try to provide that support and flexibility for Dale [Sveum] but we’re not signing [DeJesus] as a platoon player.”
DeJesus has averaged 33 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs per 162 games in his career, playing for the Royals (2003-10) and Athletics (2011). In 2010, he set career highs with a .318 batting average and .384 on-base percentage in 91 games but his season ended early because of a right thumb injury shortly after the All-Star break. Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, tried to acquire DeJesus prior to the Trading Deadline in 2010.
The outfielder was dealt to the A’s after the 2010 season, and last year, batted .240 with 20 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 60 runs scored and 46 RBIs in 131 games. He did hit .270 with a .342 on-base percentage after the All-Star Break last year.
“One thing you try to do whenever you acquire players is have a broader lens than just the previous year,” Hoyer said. “With David, he was one of the most sought after players in the trade market in 2010 before he hurt his thumb.
“We feel very good that he’ll come into Chicago and bounce back,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer said he likes DeJesus’ defense plus his ability to hit right-handed pitching well, make contact, and run the bases. In 2011, DeJesus had a 241-game errorless streak. He won’t bring much power but does give the Cubs a left-handed bat in the lineup, part of Hoyer’s efforts to get more balance. The team is still in the market for another left-hand hitter.
What about Tyler Colvin? The outfielder struggled to hit .150 with six homers in 80 games last season after hitting 20 homers and batting .254 in 2010.
“He’s certainly not out of the picture,” Hoyer said. “Tyler struggled in 2011. He has to come to camp and bounce back from last year. We’re trying to round out our lineup and do everything we can to put the best team we can on the field. I think Tyler, given the year he had, he needs to bounce back and that starts in Spring Training.”
One person ecstatic over the signing is DeJesus’ wife, Kim, who tweeted: “I was born a cubs fan, and now im married to one!!!!! COULDNT BE MORE EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOOOO CUBBIES!!!!!!!!!!”
— Carrie Muskat
Sunday was rookie hazing day, and probably the first time John Gaub, Rafael Dolis, Bryan LaHair and Tony Campana wore the costumes they did. Some didn’t quite fit — Gaub’s short ruffled dress didn’t quite close in the back and DJ LeMahieu had a tough time getting his bright blue skin-tight animal outfit zipper to close. Last year, the dress Casey Coleman was to wear ripped and had to be stapled. The veterans took it easy on Coleman this year, and he was given a bright orange prison jumper with a Hannibal Lecter mask. He seemed to be enjoying it. Tyler Colvin missed last year’s hazing because he didn’t finish the season with the team after being hit in the chest with a broken bat. He had a Minnie Mouse type dress to wear. Andrew Cashner was decked out in a MC Hammer type black and gold get-up. He had to wear his cowboy boots with it — there wasn’t another option. Campana was dressed in a bright green Tinkerbell-type fairy dress. He kept the wand tucked in his socks. The Cubs veterans didn’t spare anyone, giving costumes to the masseuse, video coordinator and one of the bullpen catchers. It’ll be a long flight to San Diego.
— Carrie Muskat
Ryan Dempster will get two more starts. He’ll start Friday in the first game of the Cubs’ series against the Cardinals and also the last game of the season Sept. 28 against the Padres. Rodrigo Lopez and Randy Wells will pitch Saturday and Sunday, respectively, against the Cardinals, while Matt Garza and Casey Coleman will start next Monday and Tuesday against the Padres.
* Expect Tyler Colvin to get at least one more start this season. Colvin was batting .155 but Mike Quade said he’s seen no lingering effects from the freak accident one year ago on Sept. 19 when he suffered a collapsed lung after he was stabbed in the chest by a broken bat.
“He just has to keep working to get better,” Quade said of Colvin. “He has bat speed and power to play up here and be good up here. Now it’s a matter of making consistent contact, of improving his discipline at the plate. When he swings at strikes and gets pitches he can handle, he does a pretty good job.”
* Gary Hughes, who has been in baseball for 44 years and with the Cubs since 2002 as a special assistant, announced he will not be returning to the team next year.
— Carrie Muskat
Bryan LaHair and Tyler Colvin are both in the lineup Thursday in the Cubs’ series finale against the Reds and Homer Bailey. Colvin is 3-for-6 on this road trip and has hit safely in 13 of his last 23 games. LaHair has been red hot, hitting safely in all eight games with an at-bat with the Cubs. He’s 6-for-11 on this road trip. Here’s the lineup:
— Carrie Muskat
Monday’s starter Matt Garza is one of five pitchers to have five or fewer wins in at least 20 starts this season despite having a sub 4.00 ERA. Garza enters Monday’s game against the Nationals with a 3.78 ERA. The Cubs right-hander has left the game with the lead but not factored in the decision six times this year.
Here’s Monday’s lineup:
— Carrie Muskat