Despite recent reports to the contrary, the Chicago Cubs brass reiterated that Javier Baez is the team’s starting shortstop for the foreseeable future.
During a recent appearance on ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy Show, ESPN analyst Karl Ravech suggested that some people in the Chicago Cubs organization felt Addison Russell was making his way back to becoming the team’s everyday shortstop. Such a move would allow defensive standout Javier Baez to move around the infield, playing third and second base, as well.
This method proved to be successful for the Cubs in the past, but times have changed. Specifically, the roster has changed since Russell last played shortstop day-in and day-out. From a strictly baseball standpoint, inserting Russell into the lineup consistently doesn’t make much sense. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein shared this sentiment.
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"“Javy’s been one of the most dynamic players in the league,” Epstein said via The Athletic (subscription required). “So as we talked about a week or two ago, I think it makes sense to give him some reliability knowing he’s going to be in the lineup every day (and) he’s going to be playing shortstop. We have so many other players with versatility and moving parts that it makes sense to keep Javy where he is, where he’s doing a great job.”"
Why Baez should stay put
The Cubs are playing great baseball of late. Since their catastrophic 2-7 start to their season, the team is 23-7, 25-14 overall. The team is starting to click, and they’re doing so with Baez as their main catalyst. Both at the plate and in the field, last year’s NL MVP runner-up has carried the team through the first month and a half of the season. He’s slashing an incredible .325/.362/.620.
These numbers coupled with the eye-popping plays in the field once again put Baez in the MVP conversation, and while it’s still early in the season, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Why in the world would the Cubs try to mess with Baez? The easy answer is they won’t.
Cubs’ depth different than in the past
The last time Russell was a fixture in Joe Maddon‘s lineup, the roster alignment was completely different. The Cubs now have a log-jam of talented infielders and Maddon has done a good job of maximizing their efficiency through the early going.
David Bote, Ben Zobrist and Daniel Descalso have all had a fair share of playing time at second base prior to Russell’s arrival with the team, and they’ve all proven to be worthy contributors thus far. I don’t anticipate Maddon messing with his lineup too much, especially given the success from all of his role players.
I expect Russell to join the list of players fighting for time at second base. Nobody’s questioning whether Russell can help the team, his defense is far and away better than any of the aforementioned second basemen. But this kid has a long road back.
Part of that journey will be to prove his worth with limited playing time. In the meantime, the Cubs have one of the best shortstops in all of baseball in Javier Baez.