Chicago Cubs: If you stay internal, is Ian Happ the answer?
If Russell isn’t part of the organization next season, does that increase the Cubs’ attempts to sign someone like Machado as a free agent? Perhaps, but there will be a lot of competition for the former Orioles star this winter.
Even if Javier Baez becomes the Cubs’ full-time shortstop, the front office will have to put a plan in place for the other middle infield position, second base. Daniel Murphy is a free agent at the end of this season. He clearly was the kind of available bat that you are willing to pickup for very little during a playoff chase. However, his poor defense and the amount of salary he is going to demand makes him unlikely to resign with Chicago.
Zobrist will be in the last year of his four-year contract with the Cubs next season – and age 38.. Maybe the Cubs can ask Zobrist to hold down the everyday starting second base job for one season with frequent days off. But after the 2019 campaign, the Cubs need to be ready to move on to someone younger than Zobrist.
Tommy La Stella and Ian Happ could help fill in there. However, the Cubs don’t appear to be comfortable with the defense of either one of them at second base. La Stella has been playing more third base than second this season. Happ has only played three innings at second base this season. Perhaps with one regular season and two offseasons to prepare, the team might try to groom Happ as the Cubs’ second baseman of the future. But the thinking clearly was not headed in that direction this year.
The days of having Starlin Castro, Baez and Russell in the major leagues with Gleyber Torres in the minor leagues are long over. The Cubs made their decision in the middle infield. It was supposed to be Russell and Baez. But with that future now far from certain, this team is going to have some big decisions to make in the months and years to come.