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Cubs’ Javy Baez deserves to start at third, but it’s complicated

Cubs infielder Javy Baez fields a ground ball against the Rockies last month at Wrigley Field.(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Cubs don’t have problems. They have options.

Javy Baez has Gold Glove talent and should be a fixture at third base, sending Kris Bryant permanently to left field. The problem – oops, the fun issue! – is that Tommy La Stella is hitting .340/.417/.604 in 53 at-bats. He plays third base, too.

Fielding should be as valued as hitting, but it isn’t. Baseball people talk a good game about the importance of defense but almost always choose offense if there’s a decision to be made. And stats freaks spend most of their time figuring out new ways to describe numerically what the eye can see, that someone is a great hitter, but haven’t come up with as many ways to quantify what makes someone a good fielder or a bad fielder.

Baez is phenomenal, whether making the tough stop to either side of him on a hard-hit ball or, particularly, charging a slow roller, picking it up barehanded and firing a strike to Anthony Rizzo at first. This will be heresy, but he’s a better fielder than shortstop Addison Russell, who isn’t as flashy but always makes the plays he can get to. No, I don’t know where the nearest effigy-burning supply store is.

Baez doesn’t have Russell’s stature, so finding at-bats for La Stella means finding them at Baez’ expense. La Stella’s natural position is second base, but the Cubs certainly aren’t going to take plate appearances away from Ben Zobrist, who is ridiculously hot. Zobrist can play left field, but if you think the Cubs would take at-bats from Bryant so La Stella can play second base, please report immediately to the drug-testing lab.

And let’s not even get into what will happen whenever left field/catcher Kyle Schwarber returns from his knee injury.

Somewhere down the line, maybe in a year or two, the Cubs will have some hard decisions to make involving trades. Some good, hard decisions.