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Cubs snag Stewart in deal with Rockies

Cubs snag Stewart in deal with Rockies

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Cubs snag Stewart in deal with Rockies
CHICAGO -- The Cubs hope they found their new third baseman in Ian Stewart.

On Thursday, the Cubs dealt Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu, two of their top Draft picks, to the Rockies for Stewart and right-handed pitcher Casey Weathers.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said they had targeted Stewart as a good fit from the beginning of the offseason.

"He obviously had a disappointing 2011 season, but we felt like there was a ton of potential there," Hoyer said. "He gives us a left-hand bat at third base, he's the right age, he's affordable, and we expect big things out of Ian.

"It was difficult to part with the two players we parted with -- both guys are homegrown and both guys have contributed a lot to the organization, but we felt to acquire a young talent like Ian Stewart at a position that's becoming difficult to fill, we felt it was the right move."

Stewart split the 2011 season between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, totaling two stints in each spot. He batted .156 with six doubles in 48 games with the Rockies and hit .275 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs in 45 games in the Minor Leagues. A wrist injury ended the season early for Stewart, but Hoyer said the infielder has been able to hit off a tee and work out. He did pass a physical after flying to Chicago this week to get examined.

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"We wouldn't have made this trade or given up the talent we gave up if he wasn't [healthy]," Hoyer said. "We're expecting Ian to come in -- and obviously he has to bounce back from last year -- but we're assuming he does and we're looking at him as our starting third baseman."

The Cubs aren't expecting Stewart to provide the same kind of power that departing third baseman Aramis Ramirez did, but Stewart is solid defensively. That's an area Hoyer and Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, are trying to address.

"With our first two significant moves, we've attempted to make the team less right-handed than it has been and we've attempted to add better defense," Hoyer said, including the acquisition of free-agent outfielder David DeJesus. "We feel very good with both moves that we've done that."

But it wasn't just the wrist injury that contributed to Stewart's struggles in 2011.

"We watched a lot of video and talked to our scouts quite a bit, and I think he was searching," Hoyer said. "I'm not sure what got him off to a slow start originally ... but it looked like he was changing his stance a lot, raising and lowering his hands, opening and closing his stance. It looked like a guy who was struggling and searching."

The same could be said for Colvin. The Cubs' No. 1 pick in 2006, Colvin batted .215 with 26 home runs and 78 RBIs in 221 games with the Cubs in the last three seasons. He hit 20 home runs in 2010, but split last season between the Cubs and Triple-A Iowa, batting .150 with the big league team.

Both the Cubs and Rockies hope a change of scenery benefits both players.

"I read a couple quotes from Ian Stewart at the end of the year that he didn't need a change of scenery and he wanted to see things through in Colorado," Hoyer said. "I respect that attitude, that he wanted to make it work there. I do think a change of scenery can work, and we're hopeful it does. Everytime you make a trade, you want the trade to work out for both sides. We're hopeful Colvin bounces back as well."

Weathers also is on the comeback trail. A first-round pick in 2007, he reached Double-A in 2008 but needed Tommy John surgery in October that year, which sidelined him the next season.

He was 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA in 44 relief appearances at Double-A last season, striking out 48 over 45 2/3 innings and walking 48. Hoyer said Weathers has struggled with command, but his velocity was still in the upper 90s.

"We're hoping he's a 'change of scenery' guy as well," Hoyer said. "He's shown glimpses of his talent but he hasn't put it together. We're hopeful our coaches and staff can bring it out of him."

The Rockies were apparently very high on LeMahieu, who made his Major League debut with the Cubs this season and batted .250 in 37 games. He was originally selected in the second round of the 2009 Draft.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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