Epstein Targets Stewart With First Trade As Cubs GM




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The Deal
The first trade made by the Cubs' new front office, headed by president Theo Epstein, yielded two Rockies first-round picks who have frustrated the organization for the final time. Colorado dealt slugging third baseman Ian Stewart (10th overall, 2003) and Double-A righty reliever Casey Weathers (eighth overall, 2007) to Chicago for 2011 part-timers Tyler Colvin, a corner outfielder with terrific power and questionable strike-zone awareness, and D.J. LeMahieu, a contact-hitting infielder whose glove fits best at third base but whose bat profiles ideally at second.

Colvin went 13th overall in 2006, so he's also got draft pedigree on his side. He popped 20 home runs and slugged .500 as a Cubs rookie in 2010, but he's never reached base consistently enough to profile as a corner regular (career .315 on-base percentage in the minors; .274 in the majors). Colvin has been an extreme flyball hitter during the past two seasons (42 percent, according to FanGraphs), and no park favors flyball hitters with juice more than Coors Field—see: Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith and Chris Iannetta, whom the Rockies traded last week after never fully committing to him as starter.

Arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, Stewart batted .242/.329/.454 and averaged 22 homers a season in 2009-10 when given a large share of Colorado's third-base job. Wrist and leg injuries devastated his 2011 season and earned him a demotion to Triple-A, where, incidentally, he compiled a .913 OPS in 226 career games for Colorado Springs. With his upper-cutting lefty swing, Stewart strikes out too much to hit for steady average (.236 in 1,242 career big league at-bats), but he gives you everything else you want from a starting third baseman: above-average power, steady defense and a strong arm. Even with a lost 2011 season, Stewart has the ninth-highest isolated power (.193) among third basemen since 2008, and he's in the same neighborhood as David Wright, Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Zimmerman.

Read Prospect Handbook excerpts for Weathers and LeMahieu below.
 
Cubs Acquire
Ian Stewart, 3b
Age: 26. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2012-14 seasons ($2.287 million salary in 2011).
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Colorado (NL) 2011 .156 48 122 14 19 6 1 0 6 14 37 3 .243 .221
3-Year Totals .230 316 933 142 215 39 6 43 137 115 285 15 .318 .423
 
Casey Weathers, rhp
Age: 26.
Born: June 10, 1985 in Elk Grove, Calif.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Vanderbilt.
Career Transactions: Selected by Rockies in first round (eighth overall) of 2007 draft; signed July 5, 2007 ... On disabled list, June 20-Oct. 21, 2009.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Tulsa (TL)
AA 2 2 5.32 44 0 0
45.2 32 31 27 3 48 48 1.75

Jack Etkin writes: Weathers seemed to be on the fast track to the big leagues after getting drafted eighth overall and signing for $1.8 million in 2007. He likely would have gotten to Colorado in 2009 had he not injured his elbow throwing a bullpen session in the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season. He had Tommy John surgery that October, missed all of 2009 and has posted a 5.74 ERA in full-season ball since returning. Weathers' command wasn't sharp before he got hurt and is now the chief obstacle he must overcome. He has regained his two power pitches, a live fastball that sits at 95-98 mph range and an 86-88 mph slider with good bite. Both can be wildly inconsistent from day to day. He also can mix in a below-average changeup to keep hitters from sitting on something hard. If he can learn to locate his fastball and slider better, Weathers has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever in the majors. He has toned down his high leg kick, but Weathers faces a crucial season in 2012 to determine whether he's a big league contributor or just an eternal puzzle.
 
Rockies Acquire
Tyler Colvin, rf
Age: 26. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: Under club control for 2012-16 seasons.
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Chicago (NL) 2011 .150 80 206 17 31 8 3 6 20 14 58 0 .204 .306
3-Year Totals .215 221 581 78 125 26 8 26 78 46 163 6 .274 .422
 
D.J. LaMahieu, 3b/2b
Age: 23. Position: 3B (72 G), 2B (66 G), SS (5 G), 1B (1 G).
Born: July 13, 1988 in Visalia, Calif.
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Louisiana State.
Career Transactions: Selected by Cubs in second round of 2009 draft; signed July 19, 2009.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Tennessee (SL) AA .358 50 187 32 67 15 2 2 27 11 22 4 .386 .492
Iowa (PCL) AAA .286 58 227 23 65 7 1 3 23 14 27 5 .328 .366
Chicago (NL) MLB .250 37 60 3 15 2
0 0 4 1 12 0 .262 .283
Minors .319 108 414 55 132 22 3 5 50 25 49 9 .354 .423

Jim Callis writes: LeMahieu has hit .317 in three minor league seasons, but he has yet to show that he can do enough else to become a big league regular. Though he has impressive size and strength, he's content to stay inside pitches and serve them to the opposite field. He rarely turns on balls and drives them for power, with his five homers in 2011 representing a career high. His proponents believe he'll develop into a 40-double/15-homer threat once he does a better job of recognizing which pitches he can drive, but most scouts see him as a singles hitter who doesn't provide enough beyond his batting average. LeMahieu's lack of pop wouldn't matter as much if he could stick in the middle infield, where he has spent much of his pro career, but his fringy speed and quickness don't fit at second base or shortstop. His best position is third base, where his soft hands and solid arm make him an average defender. LeMahieu spent all of June and most of September with the Cubs, but former manager Mike Quade never gave him much playing time to show what he could do.

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