SAN DIEGO — The airtight defensive alignment for October would have to include Javier Baez, a game-changing force moving in all directions. The Cubs have seen Baez make barehanded plays and laser throws, take charge on bunts and frustrate hitters with an uncanny ability to improvise and make split-second decisions.
Baez and Addison Russell are two of the best athletes in the entire game, Jake Arrieta said after Tuesday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, so put the ball in play and let those two middle infielders take over.
There could be playoff lineups where Baez starts at second base and bumps Ben Zobrist to the outfield. But manager Joe Maddon isn’t about to hand Baez an everyday job, sticking with the super-utility formula and versatile philosophy that’s helped the Cubs become the best team in baseball.
“It depends on how we morph as a group over the next couple years,” Maddon said Wednesday at Petco Park. “Right now, I like the way it’s working out. I like the fact that (Javy’s) getting rested (and) not playing every day. Look at his at-bats — they have gotten better, too. He is making adjustments or adaptations during the at-bat. He’s not just out of control every swing.”
Baez has channeled his aggressiveness, hitting .276 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and 83 strikeouts through 343 plate appearances, becoming a more mature and well-rounded player at the age of 23.
“You’re seeing a lot of progress,” Maddon said. “Who knows if by playing sporadically this is becoming more part of who he is? As opposed to playing every day, maybe getting caught in the trap of not hitting well, whatever, and all of a sudden he takes it on defense. It’s natural progression. He’s an everyday player, there’s no question, in maybe a couple years.”
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The Geek Department and scouting reports will ultimately influence where Baez plays, because Maddon wants him wherever the ball will most likely be hit most often. When Jon Lester pitches, that can mean Baez starting at third base and Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.
The Cubs promised Zobrist the second-base job when he signed a four-year, $56 million contract, agreeing the focus on one position would help reduce the wear and tear on his body at the age of 35. The Cubs still need Zobrist’s switch-hitting skills and World Series experience in the lineup.
Maddon also wants to keep Jorge Soler involved — because he’s a presence other teams have to account for — and maybe that will mean sacrificing Jason Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field at times.
But Baez is the type of defender the Cubs will want to see out there in one-run, low-scoring playoff games.
“He’s unbelievable,” Bryant said. “Any ball hit his way — whether it’s in the air, on the ground, on line — you kind of just expect him to make the play and make it look good. That’s what he’s been doing all year. I certainly think he’s Gold Glove worthy, but he plays all over. I feel like there should be a utility man Gold Glove, because he definitely (deserves it).”
The White Sox announced on Wednesday they have signed a 13-year naming rights deal with Guaranteed Rate for their home ballpark, which will be known as Guaranteed Field beginning on Nov. 1, 2016.
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority approved the name change in a meeting on Wednesday.
"We are pleased to find, in Guaranteed Rate, a new naming rights partner founded in Chicago by Chicagoans, which shares our commitment to the city and to our fans," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "We view this partnership as an opportunity to connect a successful Chicago business with a historic baseball franchise, and we look forward to growing this important relationship over the coming years as millions of fans enjoy White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field."
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Under the team's lease for the ballpark, the White Sox retain an option that could extend the naming rights deal an additional year through 2030.
The White Sox played at Comiskey Park from 1991-2002 before the ballpark's name changed to U.S. Cellular Field from 2003-2016.
After recharging our batteries for a few months, the CSN Fantasy crew is rested and ready for the 2016 NFL season.
While we'll have in-depth positional previews, bold predictions and sleeper/bust advice leading up to Week 1, the CSN Fantasy crew decided to get things started with a look at five burning questions for the 2016 season.
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We gauge which round suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should be drafted in, whether or not Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott will live up to the preseason hype, which quarterbacks you should target in the later rounds and much more in the video above.