The Chicago Cubs are taking a big chance on a player returning from injury and who was oft-injured in the past three years. Third baseman Ian Stewart played in only 55 games for the Cubs in 2012 due to a lingering wrist injury, hitting a disappointing .201. His season ended in June, and he had surgery to repair the wrist in July.
Stewart resumed baseball activities in November, and he reports that he feels completely healthy for the first time since 2010. Oblique strains caused him to miss the final month of 2010, and the wrist injury limited him to 48 games in 2011 and 55 in 2012. Said Stewart, “The last time I was really fully healthy was 2010, and even then I missed the last month with an oblique injury. The last few years there have been lingering wrist issues and I really believe I've gotten that taken care of….”
Stewart’s last full season – and most productive – was 2009 with the Colorado Rockies. He hit only .228 that year, but he showed a lot of power with 25 home runs and 74 RBI. He was on a similar pace in 2010 before his season ended early. In 2010, Stewart had a WAR of 2.0, meaning that his presence gave the Rockies two extra wins over what a replacement player would have provided. That number has dropped to -0.8 and 0.0 in the two years since.
The Cubs will need more production from Stewart if they are to build toward contention. He is one of the Cubs’ few veterans of five or more years in the Majors. Even if he does not hit 25 home runs, he needs to find ways to get on base. His OBA in those 55 games in 2012 was only .294 when the projected league average (lgOBP) was .324 for non-pitchers hitting in Wrigley Field.
Stewart can offer the intangible assets of veteran presence and leadership to help the young Cubs develop into contenders. His offseason workouts with Hall-of-Fame hitting star Rod Carew demonstrates those assets. Stewart has worked in two-week stints with Carew since November in preparation for the upcoming season, and he reports no pain in his wrist even with full game-speed swings.
Ian Stewart says he is ready. If healthy, then he can give the Cubs some power at the plate and leadership in the clubhouse that they will truly need. This would be a big boost to the Cubs' offense.
Baseball Reference, Ian Stewart Player Page, baseball-reference.com.Carrie Muskat, Stewart Appreciates Cubs’ Show of Support, cubs.mlb.com, February 4, 2013.Follow @mlbinjurynews