As if Ian Stewart’s Cubs career wasn’t off to a bad enough start thanks to a .201 batting average through 55 games now the third baseman acquired from the Rockies in December is on the disabled list with a sore left wrist.
Stewart dealt with similar wrist problems last year and was a late scratch from yesterday’s lineup, with Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reporting that he’ll be examined by a specialist and “may have nerve damage.”
That would obviously knock him out for an extended period, but in the meantime the Cubs called up journeyman Luis Valbuena from Triple-A and have him starting at third base this afternoon. Valbuena failed to produce for the Mariners and Indians in past years, but he’s still just 26 years old and has hit .304 with solid on-base skills and a little pop in 279 career games at Triple-A.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.