Early in the 2018-19 offseason, I wrote an article headlined ‘The Cubs should part ways with Addison Russell.’
I wrote another similar article headlined ‘The Cubs need to cut ties with Addison Russell’ a month later, after the Cubs had tendered him a 2019 contract, when there were new revelations in his domestic violence case.
The first link above contains this quote from an article in The Athletic:
The Cubs understand that a conditional return would be controversial and unpopular and could backfire in a way that alienates fans and again embarrasses the franchise.
That did, unfortunately, wind up happening when manager Joe Maddon handled questions about the situation poorly and Russell stammered his way through a news conference at spring training. It just wasn’t a good look and it was so unnecessary.
The Cubs kept Russell in the minor leagues until his suspension ended in early May. He hit reasonably well in his first 21 games after he returned to the majors, .288/.344/.508 (17-for-59) with four home runs. Then his hitting fell off the table and he went through a 5-for-39 slump. He was sent back to Iowa in mid-July after having made some bad defensive choices that might have cost the Cubs a couple of games.
He was hit in the head by a pitch in Milwaukee September 8 and missed almost three weeks on the concussion list, and overall his season was mediocre at best: .237/.308/.391 (51-for-215) with nine home runs and just 0.1 bWAR. After some very good defensive seasons early in his career, he had become a defensive liability.
What Theo Epstein did in keeping Russell on the club to try and help in his work to become a changed person after his DV situation, I completely understand. It was a noble gesture on Theo’s part. As it turned out, it was not a good baseball decision. He started just 55 games in the field in 2019 (39 at second base, 16 at shortstop) and several players on the roster were more useful, including David Bote and Nico Hoerner.
I believed it was time for the organization to cut ties and move on a year ago. They chose not to. They didn’t get the on-field play they had hoped for. We have heard little or nothing about any progress Russell has made off the field, either. At this point there’s no need to rehash what’s gone on in that area or any feelings about this entire matter. The bottom line: It’s time to move on.
Since the 2019 season ended, Cubs front office management has made major changes in the on-field coaching staff and behind-the-scenes management and scouting. They have hinted at major changes coming to the playing roster, too. One of those should be non-tendering Addison Russell before the deadline Monday. It would be better for Russell, too; presuming he’s doing what he needs to in order to rehab himself off the field, getting away from the glare of attention in Chicago would probably help him, too. I wish Russell well and hope he can become a better human being.
Let’s hope the Cubs do the right thing before Monday’s non-tender deadline.