12/3 Looking for Mike Schmidt

It’s good to be a free agent third baseman right now. The Yankees joined the crowded market Monday with the news that Alex Rodriguez needed hip surgery. The Cubs also are in line, and Theo Epstein says they may “have to be creative” to fill the spot.

“[We might have to] rely on players who haven’t held down that position over 150 games in a the big leagues or rely on a platoon or rely on someone who is more of a middle of the field player who can provide plus defense over at third,” Epstein said Monday at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. “There are not a lot of obvious fits of every day third basemen in trade or free agents available right now. When that happens, you don’t throw in the white towel but try to be creative to piece it together.”

The Cubs are still talking to Ian Stewart, who was non-tendered on Friday. Now a free agent, Stewart is considering his options. Stewart batted .201 in 55 games last season, and missed most of the year because of left wrist surgery. Luis Valbuena filled in, and is another option for the Cubs for 2013, possessing all the right attributes, Epstein said. Valbuena batted .219, but was faring better in the Venezuelan Winter League, batting .325. The Cubs also could consider a platoon at third base, which is something Epstein favors. Having two players who can start at third helps the team’s bench, plus gives the manager more versatility. The Cubs also are considering other infielders who might not have been full-time third basemen because the free agent market is a little thin there.

“It’d be good to be Mike Schmidt right about now,” Epstein said.

They could use the Hall of Famer. Cubs third basemen combined to bat .201 last season, worst in the National League.

— Carrie Muskat

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