Cubs

Cubs taking the cautious approach with Addison Russell's injury

Cubs taking the cautious approach with Addison Russell's injury

Get ready for more #JavyTime at shortstop.

The Cubs moved Addison Russell to the disabled list Friday morning with a right foot strain while Javy Baez drew his second straight start.

Baez will man shortstop in the short term while Russell gets healthy. In addition to Baez's baseball intelligence and instincts, this is also exactly why Joe Maddon doesn't want the Cubs to get rid of the young infielder: Shortstop insurance. Baez is really the only other guy besides Russell the Cubs have faith in running out at shortstop on a regular basis.

Russell has been hampered by an issue with his throwing shoulder this season, but Maddon said that is not a factor any longer and the Cubs just want Russell to get healthy for the stretch run as the Cubs have looked more and more like a playoff team of late. 

The Cubs hope to be playing deep into October (or even possibly November) again this fall, so no need to push a guy now, in the first week of August.

"It's been bothering him the last few days," Maddon said. "I wasn't aware of it prior to that. It's been going and he's probably kept it kinda quiet. I don't even know if it impacted those last couple throws that he made. We just thought it was wise to get it settled down right now."

Russell has had a couple throws come up short on him over the last few days, notching errors on Tuesday and Wednesday before sitting out Thursday's contest.

The Cubs ran tests on the foot and don't see any thing more sinister going on beyond a strain.

After a rough couple months to begin 2017, Russell has turned things around and helped turn the Cubs' season around in the process. He's hitting .306 since the All-Star Break with a .903 OPS, seven doubles, three homers and seven RBI.

His resurgence actually started earlier than that, as he's hit .288 with an .828 OPS since June 17. 

The Cubs called up left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny Friday in an effort to add more bullpen help against Washington's Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy as the current trio of southpaws — Mike Montgomery, Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing — have all been used a lot lately.

That leaves the Cubs with only three bench players Friday — Alex Avila, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. — though that figures to change over the weekend when the Cubs can send Zastryzny back down and call up Tommy La Stella or another infielder.

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki close the book on the 2017 season following Theo Epstein’s press conference, looking back at what will go down as the craziest calendar year in Cubs history from last November through the team’s loss in the NLCS this October.

Moving forward, where do guys like Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery fit? Will the Cubs re-sign Wade Davis or go after another proven closer? And how worried should fans be about the offense that completely disappeared in the postseason?

Take a listen below: