The Cubs are in an envious position, the team has too many shortstops.
The questions immediately popped up last July when the Cubs acquired Addison Russell, with Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Russell, where would they play when Baez and Russell were ready to join Castro at the big league level.
The Cubs have three players more than capable of playing shortstop in the majors, but currently only one of them has shown that he can produce at the highest level, Starlin Castro.
The front office answered one of those questions when Javier Baez was moved to second base so he would have a place to play once he was promoted. While Baez was struggling at the plate at the end of last season, he played short with Castro out and proved he could handle the position. Baez is penciled in to be at second when the Cubs open the season on April 5.
The Cubs have shown, by their actions, they are committed to Starlin Castro being the team’s shortstop. Despite rumors, the Cubs did not shop Castro after acquiring Russell from the A’s according to multiple reports, most recently the Sun-Times. And the front office sees Russell as part of the Cubs’ future, not as a trade chip to acquire pitching as so many reports have suggested.
Addison Russell is not ready for the majors, yet. Russell will start the season playing shortstop for Triple-A Iowa, but many in the game think he could be promoted to the majors at some point during the summer. Russell is close, very close, and anyone that’s seen him play knows he is a shortstop and has a chance to be a good one in the big leagues in the not too distant future.
Russell played second base one game in the Arizona Fall League but has not played other than shortstop in the Cactus League this spring. Russell has taken grounders at third in practice, but reports have not indicated Russell has lined up at second at any point in Spring Training, not even in practice.
Starlin Castro and Addison Russell are handling the questions the right way this spring. Both players have said publicly they are willing to move to another position if that is the right thing for the team.
Castro recently told the Sun-Times that Russell “has tremendous talent.” And he would do what’s best for the Cubs moving forward.
“Whatever we have to do, we need to do what’s best for the team,” Castro said in a report from the Sun-Times. “I can’t think right now if I’m going to move to third, or if I’m going to move to second, because I don’t have that decision. Whatever has to happen, happens.”
With the power Castro showed at the end of last season prior to the high ankle sprain that cut his year short, some think Castro could shift to third base and play next to Russell with Kris Bryant moving to one of the corner spots in the outfield.
Jesse Rogers asked Russell how he thinks he fits in with Castro at shortstop.
“I just think they are probably going to move me around a little bit until something big happens. Who knows, maybe nothing big may happen, I may have to move around a little bit and I’m fine with that,” Russell said. “I told Joe [Maddon] I would love to play second, I would love to play third, maybe even outfield. Just put something on my resume other than shortstop because it’s something good to have on there.”
“I played a little bit of third base in high school, not as much second base as I want to, but I have a feeling that I might be playing there this Spring Training, so I need to get more acclimated with it.”
And Russell pretty much echoed his comments to the Sun-Times.
“The challenge is just performing and proving that I can be an everyday starter at the big league level. The coaches are going to put me wherever they think I’m suitable to play. Whether it’s short, second, or third – the outfield – I’m looking forward to it because if they want me at that level, that’s where I want to perform well.”
The Cubs have said on numerous occasions that having what is perceived as too many shortstops is a good thing because shortstops are typically the most athletic players on the field and can transition to other positions.
Starlin Castro and Addison Russell are handling the situation the right way. And their willingness to move positions for the better of the team could lead to the front office actually being able to create an American League lineup with a National League team.