Bad news today, as Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell will not be available for the NLCS, according to manager Joe Maddon (Bruce Miles, Tony Andracki, Sahadev Sharma). The 21-year-old felt tightness in his left hamstring running the bases in Game Four of the NLDS, and that is now being described as a “moderate hamstring strain.”
We’ve discussed hamstrings before, and, while recovery times do vary, it seems like very few players come back sooner than a month from even mild strains these days. If that proves to be the timeline for Russell, the Cubs may be without their starting shortstop for the duration of the playoffs. Hopefully, if the Cubs make it to the World Series, he can be back.
In the interim, the Cubs will presumably go with Javier Baez as the new starting shortstop, and, as he showed in Game Five of the NLDS, he can fill in admirably. Indeed, the total value drop-off from Russell to Baez may not be all that significant. Russell is sublime defensively, but Baez is pretty darn good, too. The Baez we’ve seen this past month and a half looks to be vastly improved at the plate over last year, and we know how good he can be on the base paths.
The real hit is to the Cubs’ bench, which just lost one of its best players (by way of Baez moving to the starting lineup), and to the ability to use Baez in a more versatile way. With shortstop covered, Baez could be deployed all over, as necessary. That is no longer an option, and the Cubs are suddenly a good player short.
The Cubs could go with another arm on the roster to replace Russell if they choose, or they could add a bench player like Matt Szczur, Jonathan Herrera, Taylor Teagarden or Quintin Berry.