Early Free Agent Fantasy: I Don’t Know’s On Third

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We have to burst your bubble right off the bat and say that David Wright is likely going to be extended by the Mets, so he won’t be available to the Cubs or any other team except in a ludicrous trade.  It’s no secret that the Cubs’ third baseman situation had been in flux in between Ron Santo and Aramis Ramirez, and with Rami gone, it’s basically gone to hell.  So 3B is obviously one of the spots that will need to be shored up for next season.  Even if the team is going to blow goats, you still have to field a semi-competent lineup, so we do have to look at this.  Guys like Kevin Youkilis might also be hard to imagine in a Cubs uniform, especially if the White Sox decide to re-sign him despite declining his 2013 option.  The following is a breakdown of the available 3B both in-house and on the recently opened free agent market.

Player Age 2012 Career 2012 OPS+ Career OPS+ 2012 WAR Career WAR
Josh Vitters 24 .121/.193/.202 .121/.193/.202 9 9 -1.3 -1.3
Luis Valbuena 27 .219/.310/.340 .224/.292/.343 79 74 0.4 0.4
Ian Stewart 28 .201/.292/.335 .232/.319/.417 72 87 0 3.3
Jose Lopez 29 .246/.270/.356 .262/.292/.395 75 84 0.1 8.1
Alberto Gonzalez 30 .241/.241/.315 .242/.279/.317 44 61 0 -0.7
Drew Sutton 30 .254/.292/.393 .256/.309/.399 91 93 -0.4 0
Maicer Izturis 32 .256/.320/.315 .273/.337/.381 82 94 0.1 10.4
Jeff Keppinger 33 .325/.367/.439 .288/.337/.396 127 97 2.4 1.8
Kevin Youkilis 34 .235/.336/.409 .283/.384/.482 99 124 1.3 30.6
Eric Chavez 35 .281/.348/.496 .267/.343/.476 126 115 1.5 34
Orlando Hudson 35 .204/.261/.312 .273/.341/.412 57 97 -0.1 28.5
Ty Wigginton 35 .235/.314/.375 .263/.324/.438 85 99 -1.7 1.3
Brandon Inge 36 .218/.275/.383 .234/.303/.387 81 83 0.2 16.5
Adam Kennedy 37 .262/.345/.357 .272/.327/.384 95 88 0.2 18.2
Placido Polanco 37 .257/.302/.327 .299/.344/.403 70 96 0.3 38.9
Mark DeRosa 38 .188/.300/.247 .270/.340/.412 52 95 -0.8 8.2
Scott Rolen 38 .245/.318/.398 .281/.364/.490 88 122 0.3 66.6
Miguel Cairo 39 .187/.212/.280 .264/.314/.361 29 77 -1.4 5.8

As of now, there are 18 possible 3B (before we try to convert any struggling SS or 2B into 3B), three in-house (Stewart, Vitters, Valbuena) and 15 free agents.  The in-house guys are the youngest and least expensive, and if Stewart is non-tendered, he’ll get less than his projected arbitration figure of $2.3MM.  The in-house guys are going to stick with the Cubs (unless Stewart is cut loose) anyway so we can look at the free agents more closely.

We can group these guys into three general categories.

Yeah, Right!

Say no to Cairo.  No to DeRosa (sorry ladies).  Absolutely not to Brandon Inge, Adam Kennedy, Jose Lopez, Alberto Gonzalez, Drew Sutton, Orlando Hudson, and Ty Wigginton.  For lack of a better word, these guys all suck now and are very unlikely to be useful even on the Cubs.  Next!

Meh.

Jeff Keppinger showed that he was useful in his role on the Rays this season, but it’s likely some GM dumber than Jed Hoyer will overpay for him.  Unlikely to be signed by the Cubs.  Maicer Izturis is powerless and just kind of stands at 3B and plays defense.  He’s not your ideal corner infielder with power.

Old, Might Be Useful, But Likely Expensive

The guys left over are Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Placido Polanco, and Scott Rolen.  All have been excellent over the early parts of their careers.  All are now old as dirt and likely to get worse.  All are also earning relatively expensive contracts.  Polanco is also not a true 3B, only moving there to accommodate Chase Utley in Philly, so he doesn’t have the power to be truly valuable at the position.  Youk and Rolen are heading downhill while I don’t believe Chavez’s year is indicative of future production as it’s the best year he’s had for a long time.  While it would be wonderful to use Theo Epstein’s connection to bring Youk into the Cubs mix and have him be a mentor to the younger hitters, he’s probably going to want more money than the Cubs are willing to spend.

Verdict

If I were the Cubs I would probably stay away from the free agent market for 3B.  I would either bring Stewart back on a cheapy deal (after non-tender) to see what he has left, or just platoon Valbuena and Vitters since neither guy is going to be full-time starter caliber anyway.  However, Stewart has shown the most power of the three Cubs 3B candidates, though some of that has to be attributed to the launchpad that is Coors Field.  Stewart also has good patience at the plate even if he’s looked like crap.  So I’d give him a chance especially if it costs less than $2MM, which is chickenfeed to a baseball team.

The free agent market is full of guys who either suck, too old, or both.  At least see what the “kids” in the system can do.  Unless Kevin Youkilis wants to hang out on the North Side on a pay cut, but I don’t think that’s very likely at all.

About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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