With Starlin Castro out for now, the Chicago Cubs have indicated that Javier Baez will be the primary shortstop the rest of the way. Baez was a shortstop throughout his minor league career – and had become an increasingly good one – before transitioning to second base to accommodate Castro at short, and to get himself a spot on the big league team. The expectation has been that, assuming there are no huge trades in the offseason, the Cubs will likely enter 2015 with Castro at short and Baez at second.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was asked a good question about that situation (CSN): if the plan is for Baez to be the Cubs’ second baseman next year, and the point of shifting him there late this season was to get him ready for next year, why not leave him there regardless of Castro’s injury?
Hoyer’s response: “Because we have to make sure he can remain at shortstop and be able to do it …. It’s a fair question, but we’ll put Javy at short. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have some potential games where he moves over. But right now, he’s going to play shortstop every day.”
Ok. I totally understand and agree that you want Baez to retain that shortstop skill set, and maybe it’s harder than I think to flip flop between positions a couple times per week. But I would have thought the Cubs would want Baez still getting a majority of his starts at second base the rest of the way, in preparation for 2015 … except that putting Baez at short leaves open, or strengthens, the offseason possibility of dealing either Castro or Baez (as a shortstop).
I’m not going to go too far with this trade mongering line of thinking, but preserving Baez’s skills at shortstop, especially over an entire month to close the season certainly does remind everyone that he is a big league caliber defensive shortstop. As with everything this front office does, the move doesn’t close any doors, and instead gives them options.
Now, wearing your less cynical hat, there are several reasons to have Baez serve as the primary shortstop the rest of the way:
- He might be most comfortable at shortstop, allowing him right now to focus on the offensive side of his game a little more.
- Baez is probably the Cubs’ best available option at shortstop, and, well, that gives the Cubs the best chance to win right now. I know that seems like a crazy reason to do it, but, hey, it’s a thing.
- Using Baez at short opens up second base for the Cubs to get, for example, Logan Watkins more regular starts there (the Cubs have to make a 40-man decision on him this offseason, if they want to keep him around for 2015 as a possible utility player), and maybe even keep Arismendy Alcantara’s versatility up by starting him there a couple days a week.
- As Hoyer said, it remains valuable for Baez to be versatile and have shortstop ability in his tool box.
All in all, I think it’s probably the right move, even if it does lend itself to scrutiny.