The Rockies seem to be putting out signals that they really are leaning to a return of Ian Stewart for the start of 2012, and being the somewhat cynical sort that I am, it suggests a couple of things to me about the direction of the off-season, neither of which are what the story reads at face value:
- That the team wants to build leverage to keep Stewart's trade value high in advance of the non-tender deadline
- That the team feels Nolan Arenado is very close (June 2012) to taking over at third base and doesn't really need to worry about it anymore.
We will know in a couple of months if that first viewpoint is true or not, but the second point could save the Rockies a lot of money if correct (of course, if false, it could prove disastrous for the W/L record next season.) As for Stewart himself, if the club really believes that he's their guy for 2012, then they are hoping that he either is a late bloomer, a talented player that doesn't discover until well into his MLB career how to put it all together and overcome his pull happy deficiencies or that there could be a one year wonder season in store for Stewart in 2012 before he fades back to his relative obscurity.
Given his age and ability, the bet that Stewart could be capable of such a season actually isn't a bad one, and for the team on the whole, the bet that some player in 2012 will have a surprise career year at the plate is probably pretty decent. In 2011, there was a decided absence of this type of good luck on the team as no player outside of Troy Tulowitzki outperformed his career wRC+ by more than 10 percent. Not that there's such a thing as being due (the gambler's fallacy,) but the absence of this type of good luck in 2011 has conditioned Rockies fans to consider it their new normal. It's actually true that MLB players come out of the woodwork with unexpected strong performances as often as they come out with the unexpected terrible seasons, such as the one Stewart had in 2011.
My own opinion is that both the team and the player might need a change of scenery at this point, and it's why I've advocated pursuing other options at third base. But if the Rockies do find an offensive upgrade at one of their other weak points, sticking with Stewart might not be too bad a choice given how close Arenado seems to be.