Cubs

Cubs see Addison Russell as the next big prospect on the verge

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Cubs see Addison Russell as the next big prospect on the verge

The obsession with what’s next means Addison Russell Watch starts right now for Cubs fans and the Chicago media.

The Kris Bryant Show debuted on Friday at Wrigley Field, leaving Russell back at Triple-A Iowa as the next mega-prospect on the verge.

People around the Cubs say Russell is the real deal, a potential franchise shortstop who will force big questions about what to do with Starlin Castro, a three-time All-Star who’s still only 25.

This is a good problem for an organization that thinks it is built to be a contender for years to come.

[MORE CUBS: The wait is over - Kris Bryant arrives at Wrigley Field]

When the Cubs sent Bryant, Russell and Javier Baez down to minor-league camp in late March, Joe Maddon didn’t know what to say to a 21-year-old shortstop with such a polished all-around game. The manager came up with nothing, except for giving Russell the keep-doing-what-you’re-doing message.

“He’s going to continue to develop at Triple-A and we’ll see what happens,” team president Theo Epstein said. “But certainly the No. 1 thing we like to see in our players before they move up is dominating a level. And he’s off to a good start.”

Russell entered this season as the No. 3 prospect on Baseball America’s list – or two spots behind Bryant – and with only three games above the Double-A level on his resume.

[MORE CUBS: Worth the wait - Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut]

The noise will get louder with Russell starting to play second base and hitting .355 (11-for-31) with seven RBI through his first seven games at Iowa.

“He hasn’t been at Triple-A all that long, but he’s playing great,” Epstein said. “He’s been having really good at-bats, using the whole field. He played outstanding at shortstop the first week of the season, made like four highlight plays.

“He’s probably going to continue to play second base through the weekend and we’ll see how that goes. But we’ve had a lot of injuries in the infield. We’ve had to shuffle some things.”

Beyond the health concerns, the Cubs haven’t been getting much production out of their second basemen. Arismendy Alcantara began the season on a 1-for-19 skid that makes you wonder when they might want to shake things up again.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon pushed hard for Baez to make the team out of spring training, believing his up-the-middle defense, speed and flashes of power could carry him until things started to click at the plate.

Baez hasn’t rejoined the Iowa club yet after the death of his sister last week. Epstein said: “There’s still some things for him to deal with – with his family – before he comes back."

The Oakland A’s left spring training last year thinking Russell could be a difference-maker in a pennant race – before he tore his hamstring and became a headliner in the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade on the Fourth of July.

The Cubs have to be looking at Russell and seeing the same upside for what should be a very interesting summer on the North Side.

Theo Epstein on Manny Machado rumors: 'It's honestly something we're looking at and just rolling our eyes at'

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USA TODAY

Theo Epstein on Manny Machado rumors: 'It's honestly something we're looking at and just rolling our eyes at'

Despite the MLB trade deadline being two months away, rumors of the Cubs potentially acquiring Orioles' shortstop Manny Machado have intensifed recently. Regardless, Cubs president Theo Epstein made his point on the rumor frenzy quite clear Thursday.

"I can say with regards to this particular spasm of media frenzy, it is outrageously outsized when you compare it to the reality of the situation," Epstein said Thursday on 670 The Score.

Machado is having an unbelievable season with the Orioles, hitting .328 with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs entering Thursday. If traded, he would undoubtedly provide a boost to any ballclub, but that is a big "if."

Of course, the MLB season is not even two months old yet, which Epstein pointed out as being a big factor in the situation.

"It's May," he said. "We're still figuring out who we are as a team this year. We're still figuring out our place in the division.

"There's an atypical amount of trade discussion in May this year, which is essentially nil."

Rumors of the Cubs being a potential player in acquiring Machado make sense. At 15-34, the Orioles have the worst winning percentage (.306) in the MLB. With their current positioning, trading Machado could start a rebuild that the Orioles might just need. The Cubs have a 24-year-old shortstop in Addison Russell that the Orioles could acquire to a) replace Machado and b) use as the face of their rebuild.

Be that as it may, Epstein said the rumors are something that the Cubs are "just rolling our eyes at."

"I understand it's natural for people to connect the dots and there to be this kind of frenzy from time to time, but it's honestly something we're looking at and just rolling our eyes at," he said. "It's not like July, where every now and then there's lots of coverage on deals that are actually being discussed or actually might happen.

"This one is just out there in fantasy land at this point."

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

Albert Almora Jr. joins Kelly Crull on the Cubs Talk Podcast to weigh in on a variety of topics, including his budding bromance with rumored Cubs target Manny Machado, his expanded role and how he spends his time off away from the ballpark.

Plus, Almora has a surprise pick for the organization’s unsung hero, stating the Cubs would’ve never won the World Series without this guy.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: