Today, the Chicago Cubs optioned Javier Baez to AAA Iowa, and sent Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to minor league camp.
In isolation, these decisions are not shocking – Russell was clearly expected, Bryant was 99% expected, and Baez was close to a 50/50 proposition – but the Cubs dropped it all at once. Probably helps to soften the collective blows, and fractures the intense media focus that was going to accompany the inevitable Bryant decision.
Last week, there was some confusion about whether Javier Baez had already made the team, and we talked about the balance of development and production from a player like Baez. It had started to seem like Baez would be the Cubs’ Opening Day second baseman, providing defensive and baserunning value while working on the bat at the big league level. Now, I suppose, he’ll have to work on his adjustments at AAA Iowa for a while before coming back to Chicago.
In the interim, second base just opened up for Arismendy Alcantara and Tommy La Stella, though I think you’ll see both getting time there, and over at third base (where Mike Olt is now even more likely to be the nominal starter given a cleared out spot on the roster). Further, the potential for the Cubs to carry Welington Castillo for a little while just increased a little, too.
If one of Alcantara or La Stella grabs that second base job and runs with it, or if the Cubs decide to bring up Addison Russell sooner rather than later (he sure looked awfully ready this Spring), then the situation with respect to Baez becomes all the more complicated. That’s when you could potentially start hearing some trade rumors popping up, but I still think the hope, for now, is that Baez will work on his swing and approach issues for a little while at Iowa, and then return to Chicago in the early-to-mid season. That’s just guesswork for now.