As the Chicago Cubs indicated they would at some point, and apropos of the Cubs’ purported “glut” of shortstops at or nearing the Major Leagues, something fairly big is happening on the Iowa Cubs tonight:
Javier Baez is starting at second base.
A natural shortstop whose highest and best value remains at that position, Baez has been taking grounders at second base, but has yet to play the position in a minor league game. Although Baez can handle shortstop – and many believe he could be an average, at least, big league shortstop – it’s important that the Cubs see what he can do at other positions, and prepare him for other possibilities.
Yes, moving Baez to second base would open up the possibility that he could come to Chicago late in the second half to play alongside Starlin Castro – but I wouldn’t say that’s my expectation at this point. Instead, I’d think the Cubs are merely starting the process of expanding Baez’s positional horizons. This demonstrates to all interested parties (the Cubs, other teams, Baez, Castro, etc.) that Baez can play second base if that’s what it comes to, and the Cubs can accommodate their initial wave of infield talent if that’s what it comes to.
Should Baez take to second base and play there more regularly, the move also opens up shortstop at AAA Iowa for Addison Russell whenever the Cubs feel he’s ready for that challenge. Will that come this year? That remains unclear. Remember, Russell has very little experience above High-A, is just 20, and missed the first half with a hamstring injury. Patience is probably the order of the day.
Instead, I look at this solely for what it is: giving Baez a chance to play another position, and add some versatility. It starts the process of giving the Cubs options.
And I like it.