Chicago Cubs: Not the guy most fans want at shortstop every day
Based on Joe Maddon‘s early remarks, there can be only one choice. Unlike Duncan McLeod of Highlander fame though, the man is not exactly popular with fans. Addison Russell will ostensibly take over duties as acting starting shortstop, and it’s altogether possible that he will play almost every inning there for the rest of the regular season if indeed Baez is out that long.
Sure, the Cubs could give Russell an off day and put David Bote at short, but Bote isn’t a shortstop, and that’s not something you want to do in the middle of a pennant race in September. Ditto for Ben Zobrist and Daniel Descalso, who have both played short before in their career but aren’t shortstops at this point.
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Russell is the only choice because he’s the only competent shortstop on the Cubs’ big league squad right now, and it’s not even close. In fact, he had been one of the best defensive shortstops in all of baseball before his off-field issues caught fire last season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t looked like that guy this season, and he has had a costly error in each game of the Brewers’ series since taking over for Baez. His error last night in the ninth ultimately became the game-winning run in a 3-2 loss for the Cubs.
Russell has shown some pop while with the Cubs this season, belting nine home runs in 228 PA, including the Cubs only run off Gio Gonzalez last night. However, other than occasional home runs, Russell is a major downgrade from the slugging Baez. Despite a slump that brought his OPS down considerably to .848, Baez maintains a .171 cushion over Russell’s .677 OPS. Russell won’t be the guy that Baez has been in the heart of the Cubs order, but hopefully, the return of Willson Contreras and Ben Zobrist will nullify the loss.