Apart from several rumors, the Cubs were quiet during this weeks MLB winter meetings in Dallas and headed back to Chicago without any new additions to the club.
But just as the weeks events wrapped up, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pulled off their first trade.
The Cubs sent Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu to the Colorado Rockies for third baseman Ian Stewart and pitcher Casey Weathers.
Were really excited for both of these guys, Hoyer said in a conference call after the move was made official. Stewart is the first guy we circled at the beginning of the offseason. He had a disappointing 2011 season, but has a ton of potential, provides a left-handed bat at third base and is affordable. We expect big things out of Ian.
Its a classic change-of-scenery move for two former first-round picks as both Colvin and Stewart suffered through dismal 2011 seasons.
Stewart volleyed between the Rockies and their Triple-A affiliate all season while Colvin spent his share of time at Triple-A Iowa and struggled to find his groove after an impressive rookie season.
Both players hit in the .150s last season (Colvin hit .150 while Stewart didnt fare much better at .156). Stewart did not hit a home run and Colvin managed just six in 222 big-league plate appearances.
At 26, the Cubs expect a rebound from Stewart.
A change of scenery can make a big difference, Hoyer said. I read a couple quotes from Stewart at the end of the year saying he did need a change of scenery but that he wanted to see things through in Colorado. I really respect that attitude that he felt like he wanted to make it work there.
I do think a change of scenery can work and were certainly hopeful it does.
Stewart, who was taken as the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft by the Rockies, showed promise earlier in his career, slugging 25 homers and 70 RBI in just 425 at-bats in 2009.
The deal has been in the works for a few days, but was held up until Stewart could get checked out by the Cubs doctors after finishing last season with a wrist injury.
Our doctors were very thorough, Hoyer said. We consummated deal on Tuesday evening and we ended up flying Ian into Chicago to have him checked out. Everything looks very good. Hes been hitting off tees and hes been working out. The wrist injury that bothered him at the end of the year is cleared up and hes ready to go.
The Cubs project Stewart as the starting third baseman next year and are counting on a return to form. Hoyer cannot point to anything specific as to what plagued Stewart last season, but believes the young slugger was constantly changing his stance and pressing at the plate, something he also attributes to Colvins struggles with the Cubs.
With a guy like Stewart, we control him for 3 years, Hoyer said. Hes affordable. Hell play next year at 27. Well get three years at his prime when a lot of players come into their own. Theres plenty of examples of players like this -- like Stewart, like Colvin -- who have struggled in their 20s, had a poor season and bounced back. And were hopeful Ian is one of them.
The Cubs drafted LeMahieu in the second round of the 2009 draft and hes shown a good glove all over the infield as well as a career .317 minor-league batting average.
Weathers is another former first-round pick who turned in a solid 2008 season with Colorados Double-A affiliate (3.05 ERA, 11.0 K9) but had Tommy John surgery after the season and sat out all of 2009. Hes struggled since, posting a 5.32 ERA and 48 walks in 45.2 innings at Double-A last year.
Were hoping hes a change of scenery guy as well, Hoyer said. Hes shown glimpses of his talent, but he hasnt put it together. Were hopeful that our coaches and our staff can bring it out of him.
Including the David DeJesus signing last week, this marks the second move of the Theo era at Wrigley, providing a glance at the thought process the new front office has in trying to turn this franchise around.
With our first two moves, weve attempted to make the team less right-handed than it has been and weve attempted to add better defense, Hoyer said. \We feel pretty good with both the moves that weve made.