To co-opt an old football adage, if you have two shortstops you don’t have one. That’ll be the case for the Cubs once again when Addison Russell returns from the DL and resumes his role. Javy Baez has been a more-than-adequate replacement player, slashing .301/.338/.589 with six homers, 15 runs, and 18 RBI as the everyday shortstop in Russell’s stead.
Of course, you can’t just slide Baez to second because that would eliminate a lot of playing time for Ben Zobrist, who appears to finally be getting healthy again, and Ian Happ, who has already seen his innings usurped by Jon Jay. And then you’ve got the reigning MVP over at third, which means Javy really doesn’t have a home. Or does he?
“You’re still going to see Javy over there as we readjust Addison back into it,” Joe Maddon explained ahead of Wednesday’s game. “You’re going to see Javy at second, you’re going to see Javy at third to give KB a day off, which will be nice.
“Addi will play, but Javy will still play a lot.”
I like small “buts” and I cannot lie, which is why hearing that three-letter word used thusly has me thinking we’ll see just as much of Javy as we have been lately. All Javy, all the time, everywhere. He’ll basically be the Samuel L. Jackson of the Cubs lineup, just without all the yelling. I mean, if there’s any man worthy of Jules Winnfield’s wallet, it’s Ednel Javier Baez.
What make this all so great is that it comes so soon after Maddon had sent the exuberant infielder a message by sitting him and talking publicly about the need to stop swinging at pitches in the dirt. While we may never see him lay off of every unhittable breaking ball he sees, it’s clear that Javy took Maddon’s words to heart.
We’ll likely see a pretty steady rotation of Javy going from second to short to third and back again as he gets regular time while spelling Russell and Kris Bryant a little time. More than just getting Javy his at-bats, it’s something of a prophylactic measure as Maddon tries to keep other guys healthy. Not that Javy doesn’t need rest, more that Bryant and Russell have been nicked up and could use the additional recovery when it makes sense.
It’s all pretty remarkable, really, this Javy-coaster we’ve seen in just a few months this season. His early struggles led to a big breakout in May, then a cooling-off period in June that coincided with Ian Happ’s surging performance to generate talk of Javy’s availability in a trade. But as we’ve seen, Baez really turned it on in July and August to solidify himself as an indispensable X-factor.
Check out these monthly OPS numbers: .601, .873, .721, .844, .932. Woow.
In light of all that, I guess it’s time to bust back out my phrase from last year, which is that Javy Baez might be the best pure baseball player on this Cubs roster. Kris Bryant has certainly got something to say about that and he’s definitely their best actual player, but those who know what I’m talking about will know what I’m talking about. Wait, what?
In the end, the semantics of the matter and my own esoteric definitions are really irrelevant because the Cubs have both Baez and Bryant, along with a hella talented group of players orbiting around them. Thus, we are left with yet another very good problem to have for a team that is playing its best baseball and will be getting back to full strength in the coming week.