DENVER - APRIL 09: Ian Stewart #9 of the Colorado Rockies follows through on his broken bat RBI single to score Troy Tulowitzki #2 and Brad Hawpe #11 in the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres during MLB action on Opening Day at Coors Field on April 9, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. Stewart's RBI single gave the Rockies a 2-0 fourth inning lead over the Padres. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Now, to be clear, I don't really think the Rockies should be trading Stewart. He's only 26, he's shown the ability to hit in the majors before, and he's crushed the ball at Triple-A every time he's been assigned there. But the Rockies really don't seem to agree. Stewart's hold on Colorado's third base job had been tenuous from the very beginning of the season, and by mid-April he was already losing plate appearances to the likes of Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez.
Stewart's been trying to get a strong grasp on Colorado's hot corner spot for nearly four years now, but below-average defense, ugly batting averages and an inability to improve offensively in general have pushed the club towards looking in a new direction for their long-term starter at the position. Even from the beginning of this season, it never really seemed like the Rockies wanted to have him playing every day.
In late April, after just a few poor games with the Rockies, Colorado demoted Stewart. He crushed the ball in Triple-A for two weeks so they brought him back up, but they then decided to demote him again a couple days later. Now he's back in Triple-A, and apparently isn't particularly happy about it. Like many players would do after being jerked around like that, Stewart asked the club for a trade given his seemingly unclear role within the organization.
And even though Stewart's making $2.3 million this year and clearly doesn't have a defined role on this contending Rockies team, management told the third baseman that they weren't going to trade him. I'm just confused about exactly what the Rockies plan on doing with Stewart then. Here we have a 26-year-old third baseman with a top-notch pedigree and a .329 wOBA in 405 career MLB games, and the Rockies are instead playing a veteran duo that's currently flashing a .195 batting average in 2011.
I'm not oblivious to the fact that Stewart has hit extremely poorly for the Rockies this season; the strikeouts are a major issue, and he was a power-hitter flashing a .021 isolated power. But you see the exceptional minor league performance combined with his youth and the impressive flashes of power that we've seen from Stewart before, and all I can wonder is, "The Rockies are really benching this guy in order to play a 33-year-old Ty Wigginton?"
And that's not necessarily a knock on Wigginton. He's actually not the worst option for the Rockies at third base (that would be Mr. Lopez). If the Rockies truly believe that Wigginton is the better player for 2011, fine, I can live with that. But in that case, why are they insisting upon paying Stewart all of that money when he's not going to play, and the club refuses to field trade offers? It's hard to see Stewart's trade value increasing a good deal from here, as he's only getting older and more expensive as he goes through the arbitration system; if the Rockies aren't interesting in playing him now, are they really going to pay him a solid raise into the $3-4M range for 2012?
I'm just not really sure what the Rockies are planning on doing here. If they see Wigginton as the superior player, then why keep Stewart around? Wigginton's under contract for next season, and Stewart's only going to get more expensive even if he is falling out of favor with the club. If the Rockies want to keep Stewart around and play him, great. But I'm just not really sure why they're so insistent on keeping him around when they clearly prefer to play the veterans.