Addison Russell Rumors

NL Notes: Brewers’ GM Search, Giants, Utley, Russell, Fernandez

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio outlined a composed and orderly search for his organization’s next general manager, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Attanasio says that he won’t be in a rush to make a decision, and will pursue a “corporate”-style process, though he hopes to install a new GM before the Winter Meetings. “The process needs to be exhaustive, so as a result, there is no timetable for the process,” he explained. Per Attanasio, the organization is likely to go with a “younger person” as its chief baseball decisionmaker, and he’ll consider candidates from inside and outside not only the organization but also the game of baseball. (He called it “unlikely, but possible” that the team would ultimately go with an “outside the box” choice.) The owner added that he is open minded about what kind of contention timeline the organization will pursue, saying he would “like to see it more in the two to three years” range but noting that “we don’t want to do something halfway.”

  • Giants GM Bobby Evans talked about the team’s second base questions, as Carl Seward of the Bay Area News Group reports (links to Twitter). Joe Panik is at least a week away from beginning baseball activity, increasing the urgency of an addition. While Evans confirmed interest in Chase Utley of the Phillies, he indicated that the asking price remains above his comfort level. San Francisco is looking at multiple options to add depth up the middle, per the GM.
  • The Cubs will utilize Addison Russell as the team’s primary shortstop, manager Joe Maddon told the press today, including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter links). Starlin Castro appears ticketed for more of a utility role and could line up at second against lefties. Looking ahead, Maddon said that Russell is “absolutely” the shortstop of the future. Of course, the 25-year-old Castro is under team control through 2020 (the final year through an option), and he’s lined up to be the subject of immense offseason trade speculation.
  • The Marlins feel good about the health of young ace Jose Fernandez, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The diagnosis of a biceps strain was “great news,” said Fernandez, who added that he has felt no pain since. He added that he has every hope and intention of returning to pitch again this season.

Cubs Notes: Baez, Russell, Schwarber

Two of the NL’s top clubs begin a three-game series today at Wrigley Field when the Cubs host the Nationals.  Beyond just sharing impressive records, ESPN.com’s Ken Woolums notes that the Cubs have gone about their rebuilding process in a manner similar to how the Nats have reconstructed their roster prior to their current run of two NL East titles in the last three seasons.  Here’s more on the Cubs…

  • Javier Baez has a .944 OPS in 99 Triple-A plate appearances this season, yet ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wonders if the former top prospect can find playing time with the Cubs no matter how well he’s hitting.  Baez has been splitting time between second base and shortstop in the minors, though the Cubs are obviously set at both positions with Addison Russell and Starlin Castro.  Of course, questions remain about Baez both defensively (he already has 11 errors, nine at short) and offensively (he has 24 strikeouts in his 99 PA, and nine walks) and thus the Cubs could decide he’s expendable; Rogers notes that shifting Baez between two positions could be an audition for other teams just as much as it has to do with his development.  That said, Rogers also observes that the Cubs are under no pressure to swing a deal now and have plenty of time to figure out how to best deploy their numerous young talents.
  • Rogers hears from league sources that the Cubs have repeatedly turned down offers for Russell and have no interest in trading him.  If Chicago does decide to move a notable middle infielder, then, it would have to be Baez or Castro.
  • Kyle Schwarber is another prospect who has often been rumored to eventually change positions, though Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register that Schwarber will remain a catcher.  “With all the work he’s done in the offseason and spring training and big league camp, and going into this year and what he’s done so far this year, we’re more certain than ever that he’s going to stay behind the plate long-term. We’re committed to that right now,” Madison said.
  • Madison discusses several Cubs minor leaguers within that same piece, including Baez.  The team doesn’t have any plans to use Baez at any positions besides second and shortstop for now, Madison said.  There has been some speculation that the Cubs could make room for Baez by moving him to third and shifting Kris Bryant to left field, though Baez has never played the hot corner in his pro career and Bryant has only three innings under his belt in left.

Cubs-Mets Links: Hoyer, Russell, Castro, Syndergaard

With the teams in the midst of an interesting series at Wrigley Field, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer discussed the oft-speculated match between his club and the Mets, with the former blessed with numerous young middle infielders and the latter possessing a number of appealing young arms. Hoyer acknowledged that there have been discussions between the clubs. “We haven’t made a deal yet, but there’s been matches that made sense, and I’m sure we’ll talk to them in the future,” said Hoyer. Though the Chicago executive noted that it remains likely that the clubs will match up on a deal of some kind “at some point,” it remains unclear whether there is any realistic possibility of traction on a significant deal involving their best respective talent.

  • While plenty of water has passed under the bridge in the meantime, the Mets did ask the Cubs about the availability of top shortstop prospect Addison Russell at more than one point over the winter, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. But talks never moved on that front, as Chicago made clear it was not interested in dealing its newly-acquired blue chip piece. The report, along with the team’s aggressive promotion of Russell to man second base at the big league level, obviously suggests that the Cubs’ internal assessment of Russell meets or exceeds that of the industry as a whole. Indeed, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com opines that a trade of Starlin Castro — possibly, to the Mets — and commitment to Russell makes good sense for the Cubs, at least in the long term.
  • Both clubs are, of course, set to get a good look at the Mets‘ own best prospect, Noah Syndergaard, as he squares off against Russell and company tonight in the first start off his big league career. MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes that the ascension of Syndergaard is a clear sign that New York is ready to compete — and to do so on its own terms. “It’s been tough,” skipper Terry Collins said yesterday. “There have been times there are big names out there [available in trades or free agency] and we said, ‘We have to hold tight, we have to be patient. Our guys are coming, and when they get here, we’re going to be good for a long period of time.’ And I think that time is right around the corner. I hope it starts tomorrow.” As is the case with Russell, these comments seem to indicate that New York is hopeful that a rising Syndergaard will help drive the club in the immediate term — even in spite of an already quite productive rotation — which certainly reduces the already-low chance that he will be considered as a trade chip. They also provide further reminder that Mets GM Sandy Alderson has been quite selective in striking trades, preferring for the time being to monitor the development of internal talent while adding additional young pieces (quite successfully, of late) when the timing proved beneficial.
  • For my money, while attention is focused on the matter now, Chicago would be wise to wait until the last possible moment to decide whether to move a middle infield piece this summer. Much depends upon the information gathered in the meantime on the team’s ultimate postseason likelihood and specific needs, the readiness of Russell, and the development of Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara. As a large market club with rising payroll capacity, Chicago can afford to wait to make its moves. Similarly, the Mets are right to take more time in assessing Wilmer Flores at short — to say nothing of watching Dilson Herrera at second and seeing how David Wright responds to his rehab — and getting a better read on their own playoff prospects this year. It remains possible to imagine a scenario where these clubs match up over the summer, or perhaps more plausibly next winter, but the connection remains highly conditional as things stand.


Cubs Promote Addison Russell

The Cubs have announced that top infield prospect Addison Russell has been promoted to the Majors.  To create roster space for the 21-year-old, Arismendy Alcantara has been optioned to Triple-A and Mike Olt has been transferred to the 60-day DL in corresponding moves.  Russell, usually a shortstop, will play second base, where the Cubs have struggled this season.

USATSI_8461249_154513410_lowresRussell was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Athletics. He hit a combined .295/.350/.508 at the Class A+ and Double-A levels in 2014, spending part of the year in the Athletics’ system before they shipped him to Chicago as the key to the Cubs’ side of the Jeff Samardzija trade. He had been hitting .297/.308/.432 for Triple-A Iowa in a 39 plate appearances this season. Baseball Prospectus ranked Russell the No. 2 prospect in the game heading into the 2015 season, while Baseball America ranked him No. 3. MLB.com placed him at No. 5, praising his offensive game and noting that he’s received comparisons to Barry Larkin and Miguel Tejada.

The Cubs, of course, also recently promoted another top prospect, Kris Bryant, to play third base. The timing of Bryant’s promotion caused controversy due to the perception that the Cubs delayed his arrival so that they could control him for another season. Russell’s promotion could conceivably attract similar criticism, although he has less experience at Triple-A than Bryant and has not been nearly as dominant at that level. If anything, the Cubs could easily have postponed Russell’s promotion until June, which would have prevented him from being a Super Two player. If he sticks in the big leagues now, he will likely receive that designation, becoming arbitration-eligible for the first of four times starting in 2018 before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2021 season.

Nonetheless, Russell gives the Cubs yet another top young talent to go along with Bryant, Jorge Soler, and young veterans Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. The Cubs’ future has looked very bright for quite some time, and now, with a team loaded with excellent young players and off to a strong 7-5 start, that future seems to be coming quickly.

Russell’s promotion was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Redmond, Cubs, Harvey, O’s, White Sox

It would be foolhardy for the Marlins to fire manager Mike Redmond this early in the season, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. Redmond is well-respected among the industry, Rosenthal notes, and he cannot be blamed for the fact that Henderson Alvarez is injured and Mat Latos has struggled so greatly. (Latos’ diminished velocity is likely a significant culprit in that regard.) Rosenthal writes that owner Jeffrey Loria needs to realize that the unstable culture he creates by cycling through managers so willingly is part of the problem in Miami.

A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…

  • In the video atop his column, Rosenthal notes that Cubs top prospect Addison Russell has begun playing some second base and may eventually get a look there in the Majors. However, because he is their best defensive shortstop, Russell may eventually push Starlin Castro to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, or his arrival may lead to a trade of Castro.
  • Rosenthal writes about former Mets GM Omar Minaya’s decision to draft Matt Harvey with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft. The team had been deciding between Harvey and Chris Sale, but the Mets, like many other clubs, had some reservations about whether or not Sale would last as a starter. Minaya became convinced of Harvey after watching him in an April start at the University of Miami, though as Rosenthal notes, others in the front office/scouting department, including Marlin McPhail, Rudy Terrasas and Bryan Lambe all played large roles as well. Interestingly, Rosenthal adds that the White Sox were thrilled to get Chris Sale at No. 13, as they feared the Royals would select him fifth overall. Kansas City instead selected Cal State Fulelrton infielder Christian Colon.
  • Delmon Young told the Orioles that he wanted to regain some of his lost athleticism, and so the team had him work extensively with outfielder-turned-executive Brady Anderson in Spring Training. Young was the first to the clubhouse every day during Spring Training and is now has the fastest 10-yard dash time on the Orioles, per manager Buck Showalter. Rosenthal also notes that Everth Cabrera told the O’s that he knew advanced metrics pegged him as a below-average defender, and he expressed an interest in improving in that area. Baltimore is working with Cabrera to correct a tendency to retreat with his hands and “baby” the ball, as Rosenthal put it.
  • The White Sox weren’t as successful in upgrading their catching position as they’d have liked, but for the time being, they’re content with Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. Rosenthal notes that while Welington Castillo is widely believed to be available, the Sox and Cubs rarely make trades.

NL Notes: Francoeur, Russell, Ankiel

Jeff Francoeur believes his easygoing personality has helped keep his career going, Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes in a profile of the well-traveled outfielder. Last season, Francoeur’s teammates with Triple-A El Paso in the Padres’ system played an elaborate practical joke on Francoeur, then videotaped his reaction when he found out he’d been had. A Triple-A team ordinarily might not feel comfortable playing a trick on an accomplished big-league veteran, but Francoeur’s teammates knew he would take it well. Francoeur hit .289/.320/.450 in 487 plate appearances in El Paso and played ten games with the Padres. Now he’s in camp with the Phillies, trying to make it back to the big leagues with the seventh team of his career. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was surprised by the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade that sent him from Oakland to Chicago last summer, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. “I was a little shocked, and more confused than anything,” says Russell, who adds that he soon began to see a positive side of the trade. “The Cubs wanted me, and they got me. I look at it as a new opportunity.” Lee notes that Russell probably would have had a more straightforward path to the big leagues if he were still with the Athletics. He’s talented enough, though, that that might not matter — if he continues hitting this season, the Cubs will surely find a place for him.
  • Former big-league pitcher and outfielder Rick Ankiel is trying to help Nationals players as the teams new life skills coordinator, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I’m really just a resource for these guys or somebody to lean on for whatever they may need — whether it’s something off the field or something on the field,” Ankiel says. “I’ve been through it. I’ve got a lot of tools and mechanisms to pass down to these guys.” Ankiel, who signed out of high school and has no college experience, emphasizes that he’s not a doctor,  just a former player who’s had an unusual and varied big-league life. The 35-year-old, of course, flamed out as a pitcher after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000 before following a long road back through the minors and then re-emerging as a hitter in 2007. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013.

NL Notes: Russell, Hudson, D’Backs, Rockies

Cubs prospect Addison Russell tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Jane Lee, that he “was a little shocked” and “confused” when he learned he had been traded by the Athletics last summer. “I was kind of flying through the farm system and playing well at each level and looked forward to playing with the A’s for several more years,” Russell said. “The trade just really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. It definitely would’ve been cool to play at the big league level with the team that drafted me.”

Here are a few more notes from the National League:

  • Diamondbacks righty Daniel Hudson still does not know what his role will be going forward, as Zach Buchanan and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic report. Hudson is coming off of two consecutive Tommy John surgeries and rehab stints, and the team is still evaluating whether he will be able to continue ramping up his workload to open the year as a starter.
  • The Diamondbacks “have no urgency to go out and get anybody” at catcher, GM Dave Stewart says (quote via the above-cited piece). Arizona is still confident in its depth options and “encouraged by the improvement” shown by prospect Peter O’Brien.
  • It appears that the Rockies will have some tough decisions to make in rounding out their bench. GM Jeff Bridich said today that the club intends to carry thirteen arms, “maybe more often than not,” as Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. Rolling with a baker’s dozen on the hill likely means that the club will need to part with an outfield option, as Charlie Culberson, Brandon Barnes, and Drew Stubbs will presumably be allocated only two bench spots (with the other two going to Daniel Descalso and whichever catcher is off that day). As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported earlier today, none of that trio is out of options, though Stubbs is a 5+ service time player so is not a candidate to be sent down. One player who does lack options, however, is backstop Michael McKenry, who would seemingly be on the outside looking in with just four position-player reserves — despite the fact that the team gave him just over $1MM to avoid arbitration.

Quick Hits: Workman, Ogando, Rockies, Loria

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.


Quick Hits: Rodon, Bryant, Blue Jays, Russell

Top White Sox prospect and 2014 No. 3 overall draft pick Carlos Rodon has been promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune tweets. As anticipated, Rodon has moved quickly through the minors — he pitched 9 2/3 innings with Class A+ Winston-Salem, striking out 15 batters while walking five. The promotion to Charlotte (for whom he’ll start on Tuesday) means he’s skipping Double-A, which in turn likely means the White Sox think he’s close to being ready for the Majors. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant left Saturday’s Triple-A Iowa Cubs game with a foot injury, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register writes (Twitter links). The injury was the result of a foul ball Bryant struck off his foot a few days ago. His foot is being X-rayed. The seriousness of the injury is unclear, but his coaches did seem to know about it before tonight. Bryant’s departure from the game set off speculation that he had been promoted to the big leagues, but it does not appear that he has been. He has a ridiculous .306/.415/.648 line in 234 plate appearances so far with Iowa.
  • Two MLB insiders believe that Addison Russell will eventually become the Cubs’ starting shortstop despite the team’s surplus there, Jorge Arangure of the New York Times reports. “From what I’ve seen, [Starlin] Castro moves for sure,” says one. “Russell has the edge over [Javier] Baez.” Baez, for his part, says he enjoys playing second base.
  • The Blue Jays have optioned reliever Chad Jenkins to the minors five times this season, and he’s just one of several Blue Jays who have been optioned four or more times this year, Brendan Kennedy of TheStar.com writes. Kennedy points out that the Jays have made more non-trade, non-injury roster moves than any team this season, about 40% more than the average team. GM Alex Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays option players in order to avoid having other players land on the disabled list. “We definitely haven’t used the waiver wire much this year, but we have consciously optioned players back and forth to avoid DL placements,” he says. For example, the Jays have had Liam Hendriks spot start three times in order to get their starting pitchers more rest. Of course, Kennedy writes, a limited number of players can be optioned, and so all the Jays’ roster moves can have the effect of moving one group of players up and down regardless of how they perform.
  • Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says the team is trying to improve its bullpen, making waiver claims for relievers as recently as today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. The Brewers’ bullpen got off to an extremely hot start in April but has struggled a bit since.

Cubs Notes: Lake, Shortstops, Jackson

The Cubs have demoted outfielder Junior Lake to Triple-A Iowa, according to the MLB.com transactions page. After a good rookie season as a 23-year-old in 2013, Lake has struggled badly this season, hitting .216/.243/.364 in 305 plate appearances. None of the outfielders who started for the Cubs in their Opening Day loss to the Pirates this season are still on their active roster — the Cubs have optioned Lake, traded Emilio Bonifacio to the Braves, and released Nate Schierholtz, lately going with some combination of Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara, Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney in the outfield. Here’s more from Chicago.

  • The Cubs are loaded with young shortstops, but GM Jed Hoyer says they don’t need to trade any of them, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times writes. Chicago has Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Alcantara, which means that the team could have to find new positions for as many as three of them if they want to keep them all. “I think we can be a better team for it in a lot of ways if we end up doing that,” says Hoyer. (Alcantara has already played shortstop only sparingly this season, spending time in second base and outfield instead.) The shortstop-starved Mets love the Cubs’ talent at that position, and Wittenmyer notes that they like Russell more than Castro.
  • Nearly two years into a four-year, $52MM deal, Edwin Jackson has been a bust so far, Wittenmyer writes. This season, Jackson has a 5.74 ERA in 136 1/3 innings, although his reasonable 8.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 suggest he’s been at least somewhat better than his ERA indicates. Jackson is still just 30 and has good stuff, so his struggles in Chicago have been a disappointment. “I think it’s his location,” Hoyer says. “When he pitches up in the zone he gets hit, and the times he’s been able to stay down in the zone and locate his fastball away, he’s had some success.” Given that Jackson still throws hard and has two years left on his contract, the Cubs are likely to continue to give him chances to reemerge.