Cubs

What Joe Maddon thought about Addison Russell's press conference

What Joe Maddon thought about Addison Russell's press conference

MESA, Ariz. — Addison Russell sat on an island, the only person at the table in the Cubs spring training media room.

As it should be.

This was a major test for Russell and a huge step that needed to be taken in the course of his conditional second chance with the team.

As Russell spoke, a group of Cubs brass filtered in behind the media to watch the press conference, including Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.

The Cubs manager had a day to digest the ordeal and explained his thoughts Saturday afternoon:

"I was really impressed and proud of what he did and how he did it," Maddon said. "Not easy for him to do. I thought he held up really well. I talked to him afterwards, I talked to him again today. Gave him a big ole hug because I know that's probably the most difficult thing he's ever done publicly — or ever done period.

"So I give him a lot of credit for that. I thought his answers really addressed the situation well. I also believe a moment like that could be a tremendous growth moment for a human being in general. Again, we're talking about a second chance, making his life better, making him a better person.

"When you go through something like that, how would we all like to sit down under those circumstances and have to answer those kinds of questions? So hopefully there's a tremendous growth moment for him."

Many watched Russell's press conference and had a different take on it than Maddon. There are undoubtedly people out there who don't care to hear how difficult of a moment it was for Russell.

But what else was Maddon supposed to say? He is a part of the group of Cubs decision-makers that ultimately chose to give Russell a second chance and be there to support him along the way. 

Between the Russell situation and Joe Ricketts' racist emails, much of the conversation with Maddon so far this spring has been about off-field issues. 

He understands that comes with the territory as the front-facing figure in the organization, but he is also longing for the time where he can stick to sports.

"Of course," Maddon said. "We are here to play baseball. I know we're part of the social fabric of this country and people watch us all the time and we're very popular as baseball players. But I would like to prefer to getting back to just talking about baseball.

"That's what we're here for — we're here to entertain. We're a part of the entertainment industry, I think. I know people like to take that respite away from the rest of the world and just get absorbed into those 3-3.5 hours [of a game]. It's our job to make sure we're playing well enough to make that an enjoyable 3-3.5 hours and that's what we're here for. 

"I understand people doing their jobs, I understand that interest and the reason behind asking very difficult questions, but after all, we need to get back to becoming the baseball team that we are."

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Lee Smith Hall of Fame edition

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MLB NETWORK

Cubs Talk Podcast: Lee Smith Hall of Fame edition

Listen to Lee Smith's entire Hall of Fame induction speech in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

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USA TODAY

Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

Ever since infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist hit the restricted list for personal reasons on May 8, one of the biggest talking points around the Cubs has been the team’s need for a steady, veteran bat.

Enter Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Sunday, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported that the Cubs have emerged as a "serious suitor" for Castellanos, citing a source. 

McCosky’s report follows that of MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who reported that the Cubs had a scout in attendance at Friday’s Tigers-Blue Jays game in Detroit.

It’s currently unclear what a trade package for Castellanos, 27, would look like, but his fit with the team is obvious. In Castellanos, the Cubs would acquire a veteran outfield bat, one that hits extremely well against left-handed pitching.

Castellanos, who is a free agent after this season, has mainly hit second and third for the Tigers and led the team with 23 home runs in 2018. He holds a .280/.339/.467 slashline, with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs this season. Those numbers are even better against left-handers — .377/.451/.639 — albeit in a small sample size of 61 at-bats. However, in his 6+ MLB seasons, he's hitting .302 with an .871 OPS against left-handed pitching. 

The Cubs have struggled against left-handed pitching in 2019, ranking 23rd in average (.243) and 28th in hits with 164. Castellanos would rank first among qualified Cubs hitters vs. left-handers in average and OBP and only trail Javier Baez’s .776 in slugging percentage.

While it's true that Castellanos hits left-handed pitching well, he'd instantly become an everyday player in the Cubs outfield. Thus, the Cubs depth chart would be hit with several ripple effects.

Albert Almora Jr.'s  playing time against right-handed starting pitching would be affected. Almora held a .282/.315/.369 slashline against right-handed pitching in 2018, but those numbers currently sit at .255/.291/.427.

Almora's numbers against lefites (.210/.247/.296) aren't better, but his 2018 slashline there (.295/.340/.402) leaves room for hope. Also, Kyle Schwarber is only hitting .224 against lefties, so adding Castellanos would likely mean Almora starts less against righties and Schwarber less against lefties. Almora does provide Gold Glove caliber defense, so the Cubs may be more inclined to let him work through his struggles at the plate.

Similarly, David Bote's playing time could also be affected by Castellanos. Without the latter, the Cubs have more of a need to play Kris Bryant in the outfield, meaning third base is open for Bote to play. Adding Castellanos might mean Bryant playing more third base and less outfield, so Bote would have to crack the starting lineup at second base, more likely than not. The same goes for Robel Garcia, though his bat is making it hard to keep him out of the starting lineup right now.

Between Almora and Schwarber's numbers and Zobrist’s absence, the Cubs have a glaring need for more outfield offense. Adding Castellanos could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cubs offensively.

Update: Our David Kaplan added that the Cubs have also had discussions for Tigers closer Shane Greene.

Greene, 30, is arbitration eligible this offseason. The right-hander has converted 22 of his 25 save chances this season and has 40 strikeouts compared to 11 walks. However, his 3.54 FIP is a far cry from his 1.25 ERA, and the overriding thought has been that the Cubs would seek left-handed relief help rather than right-handed.

Greene entered Sunday with a lower ERA against lefties (0.64) than righties (1.29), though lefties are hitting .222 against him compared to .097 by righties. If the Cubs were to acquire him, he obviously wouldn't slot into the Cubs closer role, as Craig Kimbrel has the position locked down. As Kaplan noted, the cost to get both Castellanos and Greene would be steep, especially with the latter being a top relief arm on the trade market.

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