Maddon Comfortable with Roster, Calls Baez ‘Top 5 Shortstop in All of Baseball’

Even though the Cubs had to call Mike Freeman up Saturday to provide additional infield depth, Joe Maddon isn’t worried about his shortstop. That’s because he can pencil Javy Baez in there every day now. Already playing short more frequently due to injuries, El Mago will see almost all the time there with Addison Russell on administrative leave while MLB investigates allegations of his domestic violence.

“We’re kind of lucky that Javy is able to do that as well as he does,” Maddon said Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “He’s had a lot of play out there already this year. I feel very comfortable about it.”

One thing Maddon hasn’t felt comfortable about yet is talking either to or about Russell, even dating back to last year when the allegations first surfaced. Manager and player have discussed pop culture and Maddon even suggested a Stephen King book, but things remained pretty much surface level. They’ve apparently remained pretty much no level lately, as Maddon has not spoken to his ineligible shortstop at all since at least Friday.

While he wasn’t openly dismissive his erstwhile shortstop, the skipper’s comments prior to Saturday’s game indicated that he’s more than happy to roll with Javy moving forward.

“Think about it — [Javy] might be the best overall shortstop in the league right now, if you want to grade it all out with his offense and defense and baserunning,” Maddon said. “American League, there’s some competition on that side. Overall, he’s a top three, top five shortstop in all of baseball right now, even though he hasn’t played there a whole lot.”

Even had Russell not been deactivated, his questionable health and erratic offensive performance rendered him anything but a guarantee to start regularly in big games. Though still capable of making electric defensive plays, his trick shoulder was impacting the strength and accuracy of his throws on occasion.

Ken Rosenthal had reported Saturday afternoon that Russell — along with agent Scott Boras and the MLB Players Association — was “strongly considering” a request for an emergency hearing to be removed from leave. If he opts against it, or if the appeal is denied, he’ll be out for a least seven days. And MLB can extend his time on the restricted list in seven-day increments as well.

It seems like an easy assumption at this point that Russell will not be active for the postseason, whether it’s due to the league’s investigation or the Cubs’ choice. All things considered, that’s probably best for everyone involved. While it reduces flexibility and depth by a good measure, it also removes some distractions and solidifies the lineup that much further.

“You don’t even think twice when you put Javy’s name at shortstop,” Maddon declared.

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