Just when the Cubs appeared ready to get some reinforcements to the active roster September 1, they got this bad news:
Cubs do not consider Russell's aggravated injury a day-to-day injury.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) August 30, 2017
Well. This sounds like it might be a real setback and, though I am speculating here, I think the Cubs might have to prepare as if Russell won’t be back this year.
They certainly have a very capable replacement in Javier Baez. But Javy can’t play absolutely every day. He’s now started 26 consecutive games, all at shortstop, and played every inning of those games until the ninth inning Wednesday night, when Joe Maddon sent Ben Zobrist out to play short to give Javy a break.
I don’t think the Cubs view Zobrist as anything but an emergency shortstop substitute. He’s played a handful of games at short as a Cub but the last time he played the position for anything more than an inning or two was in 2013 (21 games, 11 starts).
So they’ll have to look elsewhere for someone who can give Javy a break for a few innings, or maybe a game here and there.
The Cubs recently signed Mike Freeman, who had been let go by the Dodgers. He’s a middle infielder who has some shortstop experience and 41 total big-league games over the past two years. He hasn’t hit at all in those games (63 PA, .123/.206/.193) so I’m not sure whether he’d be worth adding to the 40-man roster. Elliot Soto, a Chicago-area native who’s played eight years in the Cubs farm system, is a good defensive shortstop who hasn’t hit much in the minor leagues either (.237/.311/.323 at Iowa this year). Or maybe Chesny Young, who hit pretty well in Double-A last year but not quite as well at Iowa in 2017 (.261/.316/.315), could play shortstop at the big-league level as a backup.
So the Cubs might have to hit the waiver wire to see if they can find someone to back up Javy. They’ll have to do it quickly if they want that player eligible for the postseason, as such players have to be on the 40-man roster by 11 p.m. CT today, Thursday, August 31.
The Cubs have been so banged-up that the other roster additions when rosters expand tomorrow, September 1, are likely to be players who are being activated from the disabled list. Jon Lester, after a good bullpen session Wednesday, will be one of those activations:
That puts Mike Montgomery in for a start vs. the Braves, against whom he had success in Atlanta earlier this year, and moves Jake Arrieta back to pitch Monday in Pittsburgh, a place where he’s thrown very well his entire Cubs career. For the moment, then, it looks like the Cubs might go with a six-man rotation, at least until the next off day, which is Monday, September 11.
Also rejoining the team are likely to be Justin Grimm, who had a good rehab inning Wednesday night, and Rob Zastryzny, who’s been up a couple of times while throwing in just one big-league game this year. Victor Caratini, who’s also been with the big-league club before, is likely to return for September.
So that would be four additions to the roster, and of course Willson Contreras will return sometime in September as well, though the exact return for Willson is still not certain. These photos are encouraging:
Those five additions — Lester, Grimm, Zastryzny, Caratini and Contreras — would give the Cubs a 30-man active roster. If they go out and find a backup infielder, that’d make 31, and I can’t see them adding more than one or two others, if that. The two relievers would give Joe Maddon a 10-man bullpen and if they then go back to a five-man rotation, Montgomery slides back to relief and that’s 11 relievers, which should be enough for any big-league manager.
We’ll know more tomorrow, or perhaps later tonight if the Cubs make a waiver deal.