Luis Valbuena isn't a part of "The Core." Not technically, anyway.
As The Javier Baez Show hit Chicago last week, the pieces have started to come together for the Cubs.
Baez joined the young nucleus of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Arismendy Alcantara already in place from the position-player group. And there's more on the way with Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and others knocking on the door.
At 28, Valbuena is still in the prime of his career and could be a valuable role player for the Cubs moving forward.
The veteran infielder is under team control through the 2016 season and hopes he has found a permanent home in Chicago.
"I want to be here," he said. "Good things are coming for everybody here, with Baez, Alcantara, Soler, Bryant. I want to be here because I like the team, I like the coaches, I like the organization.
"I love it all. They've made me feel so comfortable here. It's beautiful here [in Chicago]. The fans are awesome and come out strong all the time. There are always a lot of people. For me, I want to be here forever. But I can't control that."
After bouncing around between the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, Valbuena joined the Cubs as a waiver claim at the start of the 2012 season.
He has since become a constant in the clubhouse, seeing time at third base, second, designated hitter during interleague games and even left field and posting a 2.3 WAR (Baseball Reference) in that span while hitting 26 homers and driving in 103 runs. He's been playing nearly every day at third base since Mike Olt was sent back down to Triple-A last month.
Valbuena got hot at the beginning of June, raising his average to .291 and OPS to .861 on June 14. But he's fallen back to Earth since, hitting just .180 with a .603 OPS in 49 games.
The Venezuelan native has shown an ability to work counts and take a walk and has adopted sort of a big brother role with some of the young Latin players in the clubhouse, including Castro, the 24-year-old franchise cornerstone.
With the Cubs integrating prospects, they will need a veteran presence in the locker room to help bring the kids along. Can Valbuena be one of those leaders?