MILWAUKEE – The Ian Stewart Twitter drama is #over.
The Cubs finally released the enigmatic third baseman on Tuesday, ending his stay at Triple-A Iowa and a social-media story that made national headlines.
Through the players union, Stewart had appealed his 10-day suspension without pay for critical comments made about the organization and manager Dale Sveum on Twitter.
As part of this arrangement, Stewart will lose those 10 days’ pay, around $111,000-plus, but still walk away with the rest of his $2 million salary and a chance to hit the reset button.
“It was the right decision for the two sides to part ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said at Miller Park. “It allows Ian to potentially go continue his career somewhere else. For us, it was the right time to go in a different direction.”
The Cubs have taken a mix-and-match approach to third base, getting 12 homers, 35 RBI and a .780 OPS out of the position to this point while leaning on Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom.
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But the Cubs saw Stewart as a potential core player when they made him the centerpiece of the first trade made by the Theo Epstein administration in December 2011. The Colorado Rockies had drafted Stewart 10th overall in the 2003 draft and later watched him generate 25 homers and 70 RBI in 2009.
“When you come into a new situation, you’re going to make some moves to change things up,” Hoyer said. “We talked to a lot of his teammates at the time and a lot of his former coaches and sort of, to a man, they all said: ‘Very physically gifted and just needs a change of scenery.’ We gambled on a prime-age, left-handed hitter with power who can play defense. It didn’t work out.”
The Cubs gave up two potential contributors in Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu, though neither is expected to produce at an All-Star level.
Hoyer put it this way: “I don’t think it’s a decision that does any material damage to the organization moving forward.”
Stewart hit .201 in 55 games last season before undergoing wrist surgery, getting non-tendered and coming back on a one-year deal the Cubs framed as “non-guaranteed,” even though it was a standard contract for an arbitration-level player.
Stewart spent almost all of spring training dealing with a quadriceps injury. He annoyed the front office once his rehab assignment ended in May, taking his time after being officially optioned to Iowa. He used the 72-hour window created by the collective bargaining agreement, even though he was already with the Triple-A affiliate.
Stewart felt like he was left to “rot” in Des Moines. Two weeks ago, he vented his frustration while responding to fans on Twitter, asking for his release and saying how he’d never get called back up to Chicago because Sveum “doesn’t like me and he’s running the show.”
Epstein had cited a “loyalty clause” in Stewart’s contract as justification for the suspension, though it’s difficult to see the players union losing that grievance. Stewart, 28, was hitting .168 with five homers and 20 RBI in 40 games with Iowa. Perhaps someone else will be tempted by that why-not, first-round potential.
“It may work out for him somewhere else in the big leagues,” Hoyer said. “It didn’t work out here. I don’t think there’s any way you can put it on any other side of the ledger other than ‘Loss’ for us.”