Despite trade, Baez isn't coming up yet

CHICAGO – Admit it. The moment you heard the Chicago Cubs had traded Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell to the Atlanta Braves for Class-A catcher Victor Caratini you thought of one name.

Javier Baez.

The Cubs' first-round pick of 2011 won’t be coming up from Triple-A Iowa to replace Bonifacio on the roster -- at least not yet. The Cubs haven’t announced their roster changes, but they made sure to announce that.

“We’re not going to change our timetable on any of our prospects based on a moves we made at the big league level,” general manager Jed Hoyer said not long after the trade. “When we feel like they are ready to contribute, we’ll do that.”

Baez must be getting close. After an extremely slow start, he’s raised his batting average to .255 and he hit his 20th home of run of the season Wednesday. Since moving to second base earlier this month – another indication he’s close to a promotion – Baez is hitting .328 with six home runs. His final hurdle might be to improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s still high at 4-to-1.

“All the stuff you hear about the young guys in the minor leagues, you hear for a reason,” Russell said before leaving town to join his new team. “They’re going to be good. There’s a reason everybody gets that much coverage. It’ll be fun to see them come up here and start contributing.”

Russell’s departure is symbolic of the Cubs' transition to a younger team. He was the final, lone holdover from an era of Cubs teams that included veterans Kerry Wood, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Dempster. Ironically, he might be the final trade of a veteran at the in-season deadline.

“That’s certainly the goal,” Hoyer said of wanting to be buyers instead of sellers.

But the Cubs are going to take things at their own pace. They deemed Arismendy Alcantara ready for prime time, but they haven’t made that decision with other top prospects. Money could be playing a part, as highly-touted first-round picks eventually become arbitration eligible and then eligible for free agency. Either way, Baez is still expected to see the big leagues this season. It just won’t be in Los Angeles, where the Cubs play next.

“It was different, going through that little face-lift kind of thing,” Russell said of the Cubs rebuilding. “Next thing you know we’re doing a merry-go-round with managers and moving guys every which way. It will be fun to see things slowly stop, pieces get added and watch things take their course here.”

The Cubs will undoubtedly be a team to watch even if Russell has to do it from afar. It might be a team to view for good reasons or the plan might blow up in the Cubs' face, but either way there is a story to be told, and it’s coming soon. Russell was asked what he would tell the prospects about playing in Chicago.

“There’s not many better places to play,” he responded. “Fans are great. If you’re not playing good they’ll let you know it, and if you’re playing really good they’ll even let you know that too.”

Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Darwin Barney, Emilio Bonifacio, James Russell have all been traded. And that’s just this year. The fans will definitely let the Cubs know what they think of their rebuilding, as coming back to them this trade season was a Double-A shortstop (Addison Russell), a Triple-A pitcher (Dan Straily), a Single-A catcher (Victor Caratini), a struggling lefty (Felix Doubront) and players to be named later.

“It’ll be fun for the young guys to come up and see how the fans take everything in and kind of help you get to where you want to be,” Russell said.

Baez is one step closer to it all after Thursday’s deal -- but he’s not here just yet.