Ian Stewart has been out since mid-February with a quadriceps injury and now the Cubs third baseman has been ruled out for Opening Day.
This offseason the Cubs non-tendered the arbitration eligible Stewart and then re-signed him to a one-year, $2 million deal. Similar to what the Tigers did with Brennan Boesch last week, they could release Stewart and save all but $500,000 of that money, but Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune expects the Cubs to stick with him.
Stewart hit just .201 with five homers and a .627 OPS in 55 games for the Cubs last year, missing most of the season with a wrist injury that required surgery, and was even worse for the Rockies in 2011. Luis Valbuena is slated to be the Cubs’ starting third baseman.
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.