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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

This has been the offseason of Kris Bryant rumors and with his grievance still unresolved Cubs fans can only speculate what will happen to the MVP. Is Kris Bryant trying to change the system like Curt Flood did? Host David Kaplan is joined by ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers to discuss Bryant's future as a Cub, and the lackluster offseason the Cubs have had.

(1:50) - Why the Cubs have not made any moves so far

(3:32) - Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

(6:26) - Cubs need upgrades, specifically in the bullpen

(9:10) - Will the Cubs make a big move before the season starts?

(11:30) - Does Javy Baez get the big extension?

(14:45) - Will the Cubs get to 86 wins this year?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs close to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

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USA TODAY

Cubs close to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are reportedly close to a deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions.

Souza had a career year with the Rays in 2017, slashing .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+. Those figures were career-bests for Souza, minus his batting average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than the MLB average (23).

The signing of Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

Assuming he stays healthy, Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. He’ll add power to the middle of the order and add a proven bat to an outfield with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another bat in case those two slump again.