The Cubs made a pair of roster moves Wednesday with one transaction in particular that will raise eyebrows. First up, reliever Pedro Strop has been placed on the injured list with a hamstring injury. Lefty Mike Montgomery has been activated as a corresponding move. Then there's utility man Ben Zobrist being placed on the restricted list due to a personal matter. Activated as a corresponding move: infielder Addison Russell.
Russell, who is hitting eighth in the Cubs' starting lineup for Wednesday's game vs. Miami, was suspended near the end of last season via the domestic violence policy by Major League Baseball for 40 games as a result of allegations he abused his ex-wife that MLB determined to be credible. He accepted the suspension and served 11 games last year. Obviously, that meant Russell still owed 29 games to start the 2019 season. The Cubs have already played 33 games this season and, one might notice, that doesn't line up with Russell's activation because the Cubs after his suspension was up.
Russell was hitting .222/.357/.467 with three homers in 12 games in Triple-A. As can be seen, he does have some power and most realize he plays good defense, albeit with a weak arm for a shortstop. He also was an unproductive hitter in 2017-18 and despite his 21 homers and 95 RBI in 2016, hit .238 with a 94 OPS+ in that season.
From only a baseball perspective, the Cubs players will likely publicly say they won't be distracted, but this seems like a needless distraction to the hottest team in baseball. The Cubs have won 17 of their last 22 games. Some might argue the infield depth is needed and Russell has the experience to provide as much. Some would argue Ian Happ is also in the minors right now and could provide the Cubs with that infield depth.
Russell obviously doesn't have the chops nor the right to supplant MVP-caliber shortstop Javier Baez, but expect him to see some time in a possible platoon situation at second base or to give Baez a day off at short (Baez has started every game and played all but one inning so far this season).
Zobrist, 37, is hitting .241/.343/.253 this season. He hits free agency after the year. He also took a leave for personal reasons during spring training, though there isn't any way of knowing if the matters are related or when he'll return to the team.
As for the situation at closer with Strop down, expect Cubs manager Joe Maddon to mix and match. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler has been very good, as has righty sidewinder Steve Cishek for the most part. Both have closing experience. Maybe Brad Brach would be considered, but he's walked 16 in 15 innings. Also, lefty Kyle Ryan has gotten a lot of big outs for the Cubs so far this year.