A couple of days ago the Associated Press announced the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove award for every position in both leagues. It was filled with some of the best and brightest defensive players in all of baseball, and all of the players on the list absolutely deserved to be there. While I was going through all of the names on the list, I couldn’t help but feel like there was one major glaring omission: Addison Russell.
Addison Russell Deserves a Gold Glove Nomination
I should preface the rest of this by saying that the award deserves to go to someone who has played the entire season at the position. I’m not arguing against that in the slightest. In most circumstances someone who has switched positions mid-season wouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath with the best defensive players in baseball. Russell, who was moved to shortstop when a struggling Starlin Castro was benched by the Cubs after the All-Star break, is the exception to this rule.
Russell’s natural position has always been shortstop. He played it in Oakland’s minor league system, and played it in Triple-A Iowa for the Cubs. This posed a problem when Theo Epstein made the decision to bring him up.
Starlin Castro had never been the best defensively, but he was an All-Star at shortstop. There was absolutely no reason at the beginning of the year to change that to accommodate a rookie like Russell, so Russell was moved to second base after having no in-game experience at the position. As a result, Addison Russell learned to play second base on the fly at the major league level in his rookie season. After only 86 games at the position this season, Russell finished 4th in the entire league in defensive runs saved at the position. While that’s impressive enough, it’s not even close to the most impressive stat in Russell’s short tenure with the Cubs.
After the All-Star break, when Russell was moved to short the Cubs looked like an entirely different team. The call up of Kyle Schwarber gets most of the credit for this, but it’s far from the only reason that Chicago absolutely took off in the second half. Russell played just 61 games at short, 53 in which he started, and managed to put up highlight after highlight. In doing so he managed, again, to finish 4th in the league in defensive runs saved in the entire league in just over a third of the season played at the position. The emergence of Russell at short also helped mask some of the defensive liabilities of Kris Bryant of third as well due to his flair for dramatic, diving stops that Cubs fans will likely see for many years to come.
While the Rawlings Gold Glove award doesn’t normally get awarded to someone who switches positions mid-season, it’s easy to make a case for why Addison Russell deserves a Gold Glove nomination. It’s not every day that baseball sees someone that can play the caliber of defense that Addison Russell can at multiple positions. In significantly less time logged at each position he was in the top ten in most major defensive categories at both short and second. Even if he doesn’t receive the award, he at minimum deserves a little consideration for that kind of unique ability, as Russell became the anchor of a young Cubs defense and in many ways an unsung hero that Cubs will expect to rely on defensively for years to come.