The Chicago Cubs have not offered shortstop Addison Russell a contract for the 2020 season. His tenure with the team has officially ended.
Russell was suspended for 40 games in 2018 for violating the league’s domestic violence policy after his ex-wife came forward with allegations of despicable behavior on his end. While many Cubs fans are happy to get rid of a player suspended for domestic violence, others feel it is too little, too late.
Theo Epstein, the Cubs President of Baseball Operations, released a statement in tandem with the news. Epstein’s statement is frustrating because it explicitly says baseball and economic factors are the reasons for letting go of Russell. This tells fans that if Russell was still producing on the level he did in 2016, he would still be on this team. Epstein praised Russell for his dedication to “self-improvement” after serving his suspension.
For an executive who often says he wants players with high-character, Epstein’s comments come off as tone deaf. If the Cubs want high character players they should have parted ways with Russell after the allegations and suspension came to light. The acquisition of Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and the decision to keep Russell around showed that Cubs brass is more committed to winning than having a roster filled with good guys.
The emergence of Nico Hoerner (.282 BA in 20 games in 2019) and the sustained success of Javy Baez (4.8 WAR, .281 BA, 29 HR’s in 2019) has shored up the Cubs middle infield and made Russell expendable. Robel Garcia and David Bote can provide extra depth in a pinch.
Russell joined the Cubs in a 2014 trade with the Oakland A’s. Chicago swapped pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for outfielder Billy McKinney, pitcher Dan Straily, and Russell. At the time of the trade, Russell was MLB.com’s 11th highest ranked prospect.
Russell broke out in 2016, with 21 HR’s, 95 RBI’s, and an OPS of .738. He made the All-Star team and capped off his season with a World Series game 6 grand slam that sent the Cubs to the decisive final game of their long awaited championship.
Since then, he has struggled to produce at the same level. In 2018, Russell played 130 games and only managed 5 HR’s, 38 RBI’s, and an OPS of .657. He played 82 games in 2019 and hit 9 HR’s, 23 RBI’s with an OPS of .699.
Featured Photo: @MorrisseyCST (Rick Morrissey)