After the blockbuster holiday weekend trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics, many are wondering how many more moves Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have up their sleeves prior to the trade deadline at the end of the month.
Russell, 28, won’t reach free agency until 2016 and has been one of the best left-handed relievers not only in Ricky Renteria’s bullpen, but in the entire league. In 24 1/3 innings, he’s pitched to the tune of a 2.22 earned run average and 1.068 WHIP – both of which are career-lows. He’s been better against right-handed batters this season, as they have a triple-slash of just .122/.229/.146 as opposed to the .250/.327/.455 clip of lefties. That being said, he’s been all-around solid in his career, appearing in at least 64 games in each of the past three seasons – including 74 and 77, respectively, in the past two seasons.
The Cubs could target young pitching in return for Russell, but one potential downfall of such a deal could be leaving Wesley Wright as the lone left-hander in the bullpen, as Chris Rusin is widely expected to be folded into the starting rotation following last weekend’s trade. Options waiting in the wings at Triple-A Iowa include Eric Jokisch (5-8, 4.12 ERA in 107 IP with Iowa), Zac Rosscup (2-0, 2.70 ERA in 20 IP) and Tsuyoshi Wada (9-5, 2.66 ERA in 101 2/3 IP).
As the trade deadline nears and the playoff picture begins to come into focus, don’t be surprised to see Russell’s name come up in talks, especially after he narrowly avoided being traded last summer near this time. Quality left-handers are a rare commodity and with several more years of team control, this Cubs’ southpaw is no exception.