It's hard to imagine that the Cubs could acquire a talent so significant that he can be included in the discussion as to who is the best prospect on the Cubs. But they did exactly that.
Addison Russell has been compared to Barry Larkin -- but with more power -- by more than one scout. One exec said he would take Russell over any other Cubs prospect, Kris Bryant included, though that preference seems to be at least partially dependent on the makeup of his team.
Nobody seems to doubt Russell is going to hit. You have the Larkin comps for one. This is what scout had to say,
He will always hit, good bat head control. Barrels up a lot and power should round out to above average with some maturation.
The question is more about where he is going to play on a team already loaded with middle infield talent, particularly at SS where Starlin Castro is entrenched at the MLB level. Javier Baez is handling SS well at Iowa and Arismendy Alcantara is capable of playing SS as well, though he has been the first to change positions (2B, CF), in part because he is the best pure athlete of the bunch, though all 3 are athletic enough to play pretty much anywhere on the field.
Here is one take on the trade from another industry source,
The Cubs/A's deal ... WOW!! I like it more for the Cubs. I love Addison Russell. If he can stay at SS and Bryant could stay at 3B they will have the best left side of the infield for a very long time.
So where does Starlin Castro fit in? Some of the industry buzz seemed to indicate that Castro could be traded with perhaps the NY teams interested. The implication is that the Cubs would trade him for pitching. The concerns with Castro's concentration lapses and approach at the plate remain and some question whether it makes him an ideal fit for the organization. But, to be fair, he has improved both weaknesses this season.
Another industry source thinks you keep Russell at shortstop but isn't sure he stays there long term.
I will always worry about Addison weight. He comes from a large family and tough to control as he ages. The tools are present, but do they stick in his late 20's when the metabolism really slows?
I also asked Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus for his opinion. When I asked him who the best SS of the bunch is, he replied that it was Russell without hesitation.
Russell is a SS all the way. Baez could be trade bait or move to 3B. Bryant eventually to RF. Maybe Castro to 2B, Arismendy to the OF?
Parks then added that it is much harder to ask a vet to move for a rookie than a rookie to move for a vet. We all remember how well Larry Bowa and Ryan Theriot took the news. So that could mean that either Castro stays at SS or gets moved in a trade.
So you have some very smart baseball minds who all seem to love the trade, but with different ideas of what the Cubs can do. That illustrates the unprecedented options the Cub have right now and they may be able to just sit back and see how this plays out. Which option gives them the best value overall? That question may not have an answer just yet.
I told Parks that I understand there is the possibility of trading Castro and that it could bring them the pitching they need. At the same time, you have a team in the Cubs that is heavily dependent on prospects and as Parks himself has titled his prospects pieces, "Prospects will break your heart". History has shown that other teams with similar groups of elite prospects had at least some degree of mixed success. Nobody had a situation where everyone panned out. Is it wise for the Cubs to trade an established 3 to 4 win player at a premium position knowing there will almost certainly be some attrition among their top prospects?
The other question is how much value Castro has on the trade market. He is cost-controlled and relatively cheap given his current level of play, but he is still owed close to $50M. The source above noted he doesn't quite fit the Cubs philosophy, yet the Cubs went out of their way to reassure Castro that they are happy with his play this season. As Patrick Mooney of CSN tweeted,
Theo calls Starlin a centerpiece to plans and says Cubs SS shouldn't be looking over his shoulder.
The Mets seem lukewarm on the possibility of trading for a player with Castro's more aggressive approach, even if his OBP of .335 is about average and his power well above average for a SS. This could just be the Mets posturing to get the price down. GM Sandy Alderson isn't exactly known for giving up a lot of young talent or taking less long term value in return.
The Cubs know what they have in Castro and that is an imperfect, but immensely talented player at SS who they know is already capable of performing at a high level -- and he is just 24, with plenty to time to improve. He is 3 years removed from his prime seasons. That has tremendous value, if not to another team, then certainly to their own when you consider that his floor is an MLB all-star level SS right now. The Cubs are a big market team that can afford to keep their established players without having to roll the dice every few years on prospects alone.
We know that Castro has said he has been willing to move for Baez. Might he be willing to move for an even better defensive shortstop in Russell? That would seem to be the best solution on paper, but it's not that easy in the real world, as Parks noted.
For what it's worth, Castro responded to the news in a positive light,
"A lot of great talent...they know what they're doing."
Too much talent. It's a great problem to have but we as Cubs fans are unfamiliar with the concept. Thankfully the front office is not.
What would you do?