Once upon a time Ian Stewart looked like one of the Rockies’ long-term building blocks, going from 2003 first-round pick and top-ranked prospect to starting third baseman for the past three seasons.
Then he got off to a slow start this year, the Rockies demoted him to Triple-A for two months, and even now that they’ve called him back up Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post calls Stewart “an afterthought” in the team’s plans.
Stewart is mediocre at best defensively at third base and has hit just .237 with a .757 OPS for his career despite calling Coors Field home, so at age 26 he’s hardly bursting with potential. Still, the Rockies giving up on him so abruptly is surprising and Armstrong writes that the main thing keeping Stewart from being traded is his value plummeting to the point that other teams are offering marginal value in return.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.