Non-Tender Trade Candidate – Ian Stewart

Throughout the 2011-2012 off-season, Kevin Creagh will be looking at players that have been rumored to be non-tender or trade candidates, based primarily off of rumors and reports from MLB Trade Rumors.  The review isn’t to suggest that the players are being pursued by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The purpose of the series is to explore the potential options on the market to see who might be a good fit for the 2012 roster.

On Monday, MLB Trade Rumors published their most recent list of players who could be non-tendered.  The list had 50 possible players on it, broken down by Hitters and Pitchers.  In recent weeks, we’ve examined the possibility of Mike Aviles and Chris Volstad on this site.

After checking this most recent comprehensive list out, the name that caught my eye was Ian Stewart from the Colorado Rockies.  Let me preface this article by saying that I would be surprised if the Rockies non-tendered Stewart, although he seems to have definitely fallen out of favor with the Rockies.  Stewart’s OPS in his preceding 3 years were 804, 785, and 781 from 2008-2010.

2011 was pretty much a nightmare of a season for Ian Stewart.  Think about Pedro Alvarez’s season and then increase that by 25%.  For the year, Stewart batted .156/.243/.221 (464 OPS) with only a .208 wOBA.  He was demoted to AAA in April and recalled in late May, only to continue to struggle and then hurt his wrist in August while at AAA again.  To date, he has not resumed swinging a bat.

So why be interested in picking him up, right?  Stewart is going to be 27 in 2012 and hit 25 HR in 2009 and 18 in 2010, all while providing slightly above-average defense at 3B (career 2.3/150 UZR).  Perhaps the Rockies are just tired of him or perhaps they can’t wait around for Stewart if they want to contend in the NL West this year, but if a team is willing to give up on a 3B entering his physical peak years, then the Pirates should consider trading to acquire his rights before he reaches the open market.  Stewart is a Super 2 player and MLBTR has forecast his 2012 salary to be $2 million in his 2nd year of 4 under arbitration.  A team would potentially have control of Stewart for 3 more years.

Stewart is not a Coors Field creation, either.  For his career, his home and road splits are fairly even.  At home, his triple slash line is .243/.337/.430 (767 OPS) and his road line is .229/.309/.427 (736 OPS).  As you can see, he’s not a superstar, but his bat is at least league-average for 3B.  The other facet of Stewart is that he does not have a pronounced lefty-righty split.  Stewart is a left-handed batter, but his line against LHP is .223/.320/.406 (726 OPS) while it is .240/.324/.435 (759 OPS) against RHP.

Of course the Pirates have their own 3B to worry about in Alvarez, so pairing 2 bounce-back candidates and hoping that one will work out is not a typical recipe for success.  However, due to his relative success against LHP, Stewart could have value as a platoon partner for Alvarez if he continues to struggle against LHP and act as a possible defensive replacement in late innings due to his better defensive numbers.

That last sentence is more of an indictment on Alvarez’s career to this point, than it is an endorsement of Stewart’s.  No one hoped that Alvarez would be part of a platoon and a defensive liability when he was drafted in 2008.  However, as we stand in November 2011 that is what the Pirates have to consider.

Ian Stewart could very well have a severely damaged wrist internally.  He could be a player that peaked at age 25 and will be out of the league before age 30.  However, of all the Non-Tender position player candidates out there, he is the one that would have the most upside if he rebounds.

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  • Anonymous

    2 Million is too much of a gamble for him IMO, he almost has to make the club with that salary and if they keep him as a gamble that would mean that a guy like Harrison would end up back in the minors and I think Harrison is more of a sure thing, plus Harrison can do more.

  • Bob

    Dumpster diving again.  

  • Brian Bernard

    Absolutely ludicrissssssss… .145 Kevin .145 

    I’d rather see Jordy Mercer come up and get time at 3b than to pay 2 mil to this bum. Common sense man you’re not just filling out a roster you’re trying to compete.

    • Tim Williams

      I’m not sure I’d call up Mercer right away. He had a .239 average and a .689 OPS in AAA, and his numbers would take a drop in the jump to the majors. Clearly he needs more time in AAA. I think Stewart would be a good alternative to Brandon Wood. He’s coming off a bad year, but he’s been in the .780-.800 OPS range the previous three seasons. I don’t think the 2011 season is an accurate portrayal of his talent level.

  • Anonymous

    Does this move make sense if the Pirates intend to move Pedro to 1st?  This allows Garrett Jones to back up Pedro at first and if Stewart falters, then Pedro moves over to 3rd.

    • Anonymous

      They don’t intend to move Pedro to 1B this offseason, as per Neal Huntington.  The Pirates feel giving him a 2nd variable to work on (position change in the field) would not be good as they are trying to get him back together at the plate.

      NH did sort of imply that the Pirates don’t think he can stay there long-term, but Pedro is committed to improvement in all facets of his game this offseason. 

      My personal opinion is that 2012 is Pedro’s last chance at 3B.  If he’s OK, he stays.  If he falters, they’ll switch him for the 2013 season.

      • Anonymous

        “…Pedro is committed to improvement…”   Is that speculation or have you heard something solid? A comment from a Vermont roundtable was something like NH had no idea how ‘dro was doing, which was worrisome to me. I would think the Bucs would have a personal trainer sitting outside ‘dros’s door.

        Just asking.

        • Anonymous

          It’s a combination of an interview that NH did with 93.7 the FAN, where he said Pedro was going to the Performance Institute this fall, and email conversations that Pirate Prospects have had with NH and Frank Coonelly this offseason.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks. I hadn’t seen anything saying ‘dro was doing anything he needed to do in the offseason.

      • Bob

        Pedro obviously has the talent but his work ethic is terrible.  He has to come into spring training fit and ready to compete, I feel like he was very complacent last off season and it showed in his regression throughout the season.  

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