The NL Central-leading Cubs are getting healthier as they charge toward a third straight division title. The club announced that it has activated superstar third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell from the 10-day disabled list. Of the two, only Bryant’s in the Cubs’ starting lineup for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia.
The Cubs’ roster looks stronger than it did when Bryant landed on the shelf July 26 with left shoulder inflammation, as the team has since swung deals for several players, including left-hander Cole Hamels and second baseman Daniel Murphy. Those additions have helped Chicago stay atop its division, which it leads by 3 1/2 games, in Bryant’s absence.
At the time of his DL placement, the 26-year-old Bryant was slashing .276/.380/.474 in 358 plate appearances. While those numbers are 29 percent better than league average, according to FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric, they’re a good deal worse than Bryant’s career line of .286/.387/.519 (141 wRC+). Perhaps because of his shoulder troubles, Bryant’s power output has fallen this season, as he has managed 11 home runs and a career-worst .197 ISO. Nevertheless, the 2016 NL MVP remains an eminently valuable player – one whom the Cubs are no doubt overjoyed to welcome back. Chicago primarily deployed David Bote at third with Bryant out, and while the former has had his moments during a quality rookie campaign, his production has cratered of late. Bote racked up 82 PAs in August and hit a meager .187/.244/.387 with 25 strikeouts against four walks.
As for Russell, he appears to be in line for diminished playing time, thanks in part to the acquisition of Murphy. Russell went on the DL with a sprained left index finger Aug. 22, which made room for the Cubs to add Murphy to their roster. Murphy has been hot since then, and carries a better offensive track record than Russell, making it likely he’ll continue as Chicago’s top option at the keystone. And Murphy’s presence has left shortstop for Javier Baez, who had been the Cubs’ starting second baseman and has been one of the majors’ most valuable players in 2018.