It was looking like, after a near month of absence, Addison Russell would soon be back with the Chicago Cubs, permitting them to optimize match-ups and defenses better than they are presently able. Oh, and they could finally give Javy Baez a breather.
But … le sigh.
Russell suffered a setback with his foot injury (muscular strain, plantar fasciitis) at AAA Iowa, was scratched from today’s game, and is being sent back to Chicago for further evaluation (Sun-Times, CSN).
Precisely how this will impact Russell’s timetable for return is not yet known, but it’s virtually impossible to see him now returning when we’d been expecting (which was as soon as this weekend, but perhaps next week).
With Russell now set to be out for another week or two or three or who knows (hopefully we learn more tomorrow), the Cubs are in a bind at shortstop.
First of all, thank goodness for Javy Baez, who is a more than capable big league starting shortstop. And the Cubs have the pieces to cover second base with aplomb. If everyone stays healthy and productive, the Cubs can be just fine without Russell.
But the problem is that Baez may need a break to be at his best down the stretch. And God forbid he get injured, and then the Cubs’ next shortstop is … Ben Zobrist? Kris Bryant? Probably not. And if you look at AAA, you see Mike Freeman, Elliot Soto, Jemile Weeks, and Chesny Young, none of whom are necessarily the guy you want to see drawing a lot of starts – or playoff starts – for the Cubs right now, and none of whom are OPS’ing more than Freeman’s .780. (Based on his career track record, by the way, he’s probably the guy the Cubs would bring up as a backup if they had to go internal.)
To that end, the Cubs at least now have the benefit of the waiver trade deadline being tomorrow, so they can try to find a capable veteran backup to add on the cheap just in case Russell is not back sooner rather than later, and/or just in case something were to happen to Baez.
In the end, the hope here is still that Russell can be back in a couple weeks, because the Cubs, overall, are still better with him in the fold than not. And when playoff time comes, you very much want a healthy, geared-up Russell back in the mix.