One issue, among many, with Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena platooning at third base is their left-handedness.
Valbuena, interestingly, actually hit better last season vs. lefty starters (.235) than he did vs. righty starters (.215). However, it’s not that much better and Valbuena did have 163 fewer at-bats against southpaw starters.
Nonetheless, I’m suggesting it would be more ideal if the Cubs had a right-handed hitting third baseman to fill out the platoon role with either Stewart or Valbuena, not to mention an available right-handed bat to come off the bench.
For a time that player appeared to be Josh Vitters, but unfortunately the kid was completely over-matched offensively at the big league level last season. Ultimately we had to come to terms with the fact Vitters is still too green for The Show and destined to begin next season with Triple-A Iowa.
Meanwhile, aside from Dave Sappelt (bats R) and Dioner Navarro (bats S), the Cubs’ likely bench/platoon players for 2013 are all left-handed hitters: Tony Campana, Brett Jackson, Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus.
A right-handed bat at third could help the cause, but an already thin free agent market at the hot corner has dried up rather quickly now that Kevin Youkilis succumbed to the Evil Empire and the White Sox swooped in to land Jeff Keppenger.
Of the few remaining names on the list only one makes much sense for Chicago–Brandon Inge. He’s a good fielder, has power and hits right-handed.
Check, check and check.
Detroit released Inge last April after his slow start but he quickly bounced back with Oakland to hit .226/.286/.389 in 74-games. Not great by any stretch, but there’s value found in his 11 HR, his above average fielding and his right-handedness.
Clearly no longer a full-time player, Inge turns 36 in May and likely wouldn’t bring back more than a bag of peanuts in a July trade. Still, it wouldn’t hurt the Cubs to add a veteran presence on its youthful roster (especially if Soriano and Marmol are both traded) and a guy who could straighten out a lefty-lefty platoon at third.
I’m hard pressed to believe any team offers Inge more than a one-year deal this offseason or anything close to his $5.5M price tag from 2012. In fact, it seems Inge is ripe for the taking if the Cubs care to give him a closer look, which might only require a minor league contract and invite to spring training.
What I do know is Inge is no worse than what the Cubs already have at third to open spring camp, and at worst he’s gone before the end of spring training.
There’s a real uncertainty whether Stewart will work out…or Valbuena…or Vitters for that matter. So with a roster chalked full of stopgaps, what’s one more in 2013?