By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — The trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland has brought back a player who many believe will be the Cubs’ shortstop of the future.
Addison Russell is the prize of the six-player swap that shocked the baseball world on Friday.
“Addison Russell has more talent and is more advanced at shortstop than (Derek) Jeter was in his last year of Triple-A,” a 30-year veteran scout said. “He has five-tool ability and is an excellent defender at the most important position on the field.”
Another scout who has been in scouting and player development for 40 years has a similar perspective of Russell compared to the team’s present shortstop, Starlin Castro.
“Castro is a fine player and a good baseball specimen. I think the way he has been growing that he is a third baseman in the future. Look at his body,” the scout said. “He has grown a couple inches and added some muscle. That is the body now of a future All-Star third baseman. The other kid — Russell will be their shortstop at some point.”
Nobody had anything really bad to say about Castro. In his phone briefing with media members on Saturday, Cubs president Theo Epstein insisted that having a lot of outstanding shortstops in an organization can only help grow the farm system s strength. The Cubs also have renowned prospect Javier Baez at shortstop in Triple-A.
“This deal has nothing to do with Starlin Castro,” Epstein said. “This has everything to do with acquiring a top young talent. Starlin is another guy who is athletic enough and has tools to play a couple of different positions on the field. I don’t foresee that anytime in the near future.”
To his credit, Castro has done everything to get back to the All-Star form he attained in 2010-’11. The 24-year-old has improved his play on both offense and defense. When you put in the work and show results, there is no way you want to disturb that result if you’re the Cubs. That said, position changes or trades will come soon enough for Castro, Russell or Baez.
“It is not a secret that we now have extremely talented extremely deep group of potentially impact position players age 20 to 22” Epstein said. “They are moving very quickly through our system. These are real prospects. We like these players quite a bit, and they have a chance to play together a long time. When you put that together with a couple of 24-year-old All-Star performers like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo you cannot help but be excited about the future.”
Epstein admitted that the Cubs still need help on the pitching side. However, some of this quality young talent will more than likely to be used to acquire pitching down the road.