james russell cubsThat might not be the best way to phrase that headline, given that every Cubs player is “available.” Until now, although we know that teams have had interest in James Russell, and that the Cubs will consider a move if it improves them overall, Russell has consistently been listed by pundits as “unlikely” to be traded.

I generally have agreed. He’s 27. He’s an effective lefty against righties and lefties (some hiccups this year notwithstanding). He makes barely $1 million this year, and has two more arbitration years left. He’s been the Cubs’ only consistently effective lefty reliever for going on two years. Dude has a lot of value to the Cubs.

However, if a report from Bruce Levine is to be believed, the Cubs are willing to part with him.

Levine says that, last week, Russell was “almost traded” to the Braves. We’d heard from the Atlanta side that there was strong interest in Russell around that time, so Levine’s report makes sense in that regard. Yesterday, the Braves picked up Scott Downs for a song, and their desire for a lefty reliever probably passed. Levine adds, though, that the Reds have also been looking for a reliever like Russell, and have inquired. There’s a bit more in Levine’s report from Dale Sveum, and a look at Nate Schierholtz rumors, as well.

The upshot here is less about specific interest from the Reds (or Braves, or whomever), and more about the fact that the Cubs were close to trading Russell at all last week. He’s long been a tough one to value in trade, for the reasons discussed above (coupled with his low velocity, and reliance on changing speeds and hitting locations – not what you’d expect from a late-inning reliever), and I still tend to doubt that the Cubs will get enough to move him right now.

But it sounds like they’re open to it.



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