A scout from a potential playoff opponent asked the question while covering the Cubs in late September: Why is Addison Russell still playing shortstop over Javier Baez? An ego thing, to make sure they didn’t lose Russell near the end of a difficult year from a personal/professional standpoint, knowing they’d need his clutch hitting in October? A timing issue, because Russell hadn’t played second base in two years and would need to relearn the angles on double plays? Maybe manager Joe Maddon’s stubborn belief in his player evaluations? If the Cubs don’t have a Starlin Castro-level shortstop controversy, they will have some interesting discussions in an offseason where at least five of Maddon’s coaches have either been fired or taken jobs elsewhere and team president Theo Epstein has already signaled that he will probably have to deal major-league talent to fix the rotation and/or bullpen. Trading either middle infielder sounds extreme when there are durability/off-the-field concerns with Russell and unfinished aspects to Baez’s game and both come with early-20s, 20-plus-homer potential. What about flipping Russell back to second base and making Baez the shortstop? “I’d be lying if I said those conversations don’t come up from time to time, either just informally in the locker room or strategically behind the scenes,” Epstein said. “There’s not one person in the organization who’s pounding the table to make the switch, or at least who will voice that opinion.” Epstein laughed at that line during his end-of-season Wrigley Field news conference, and it was interesting that he didn’t completely dismiss the question after three straight trips to the National League Championship Series.
Where do Cubs go from here with Addison Russell and Javier Baez?
NBC Chicago | Oct 31