With the Cubs in Colorado to play the Rockies this week, it’s a good time to take a look at one off-season move that didn’t quite work out for the new Cubs regime.
All in all, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer had a good off-season of acquisitions coming into this year.
David DeJesus proved to be a solid free-agent signing. The trade of Sean Marshall to the Reds raised some eyebrows, but James Russell has replaced Marshall in the Cubs bullpen and at a fraction of the cost. Pitcher Travis Wood has progressed nicely, and Dave Sappelt is making a case to be the fourth outfielder next season.
That brings us to the trade of outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder DJ LeMahieu to the Rockies for third baseman Ian Stewart.
It’s a trade Epstein and Hoyer should want back.
Stewart’s chronically bad wrist acted up again early this year. He went on the disabled list June 14, had surgery and hasn’t been seen since. Don’t look for the Cubs to bring him back.
The Cubs needed a third baseman because Aramis Ramirez wasn’t re-signing, so Epstein and Hoyer figured they’d take a chance on Stewart, who had a terrible 2011 but hit 18 homers in 2010.
But Stewart never did get right, and the Cubs were left to fill third base with a patchwork of journeyman Luis Valbuena and, later, rookie Josh Vitters, who has seen most of his time on the bench lately.
Colvin has thrived in Colorado, and yes, Coors Field has had a good deal to do with that.
He entered Monday night’s game for the Rockies against Arizona with a hitting line of .283/.323/.530 for an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .853. The best OPS man on the Cubs is Alfonso Soriano, at .821.
Colvin has 23 doubles, 9 triples, 18 homers and 67 RBI. As with the Cubs, most of his OPS number comes from slugging percentage, as he has just 21 walks and 107 strikeouts.
“He’s had a really nice year for himself, and I think we have acquired ourselves a pretty good baseball player moving forward,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy told the Denver Post recently.
Colvin’s home-road splits provide the one cause for concern. At Coors Field, his line is .328/.374/.656 for a hefty OPS of 1.030. Eleven of his home runs and 8 of his triples have come at Coors.
On the road, Colvin’s line is .238/.271/.404 for an OPS of .675
LeMahieu, who has spent time in the minor leagues, had 198 big-league at-bats entering Monday for a line of .278/.310/.369.
The Cubs began this season with Marlon Byrd in center field, DeJesus in right, Stewart at third base and Bryan LaHair at first.
Perhaps the better move would have been to try to trade Byrd last off-season, put DeJesus in center and Colvin in right.
But in fairness to Epstein and Hoyer, there weren’t many options for third base, and they thought the change of scenery would do Stewart good.
Turns out the change in atmosphere helped Colvin out a lot more.
Fending off 100:
The Cubs are 59-94 and are on pace to finish 62-100. They need to go 4-5 over their next nine games to avoid the dreaded century mark.
After they play three in Colorado — the Rockies entered Monday 58-94 and just 1 loss away from tying the franchise record — the Cubs head to Arizona for three this weekend against the Diamondbacks (77-75 entering Monday).
The Cubs finish with three at home next week against Houston.
“With nine games left, we’ve got our work cut out for us,” manager Dale Sveum said over the weekend. “Six are on the road and three at home, so we’ve got to find some way to come up with 4 wins.”
Jackson benched, too:
Don’t look now, but center fielder Brett Jackson has joined fellow rookie Josh Vitters on the bench.
Jackson has begun the last four games out of the starting lineup. He pinch hit last Thursday against the Reds and scored the winning run Friday as a pinch runner against the Cardinals. Vitters got a rare start Saturday only because Luis Valbuena’s knee was bothering him.
The line for Vitters in 88 at-bats is .114/.160/.205 with 2 homers, 5 RBI, 4 walks and 30 strikeouts.
For Jackson in 107 at-bats, it’s .168/.294/.355 with 4 homers, 8 RBI, 19 walks and 54 strikeouts.
Both players may see more time against the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Astros as the Cubs finish the season, but the front office may have just as much work to do at third base and center field as they do any other spots this off-season.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.