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Will Addison Russell actually return to the Cubs May 3?

There are some hints that he might not.

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Addison Russell’s 40-game suspension ends next week and he will be eligible to play Friday, May 3, when the Cubs host the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Earlier this week I asked you where you thought Russell would or should play when he returned. Then Thursday, this news came out:

This was a hint that Russell wouldn’t automatically take over his previous position as the starting shortstop, especially with Javier Baez doing so well there.

Then there was this statement made by Theo Epstein Thursday, quoted by Jon Greenberg in The Athletic:

“I told him the other day that seven days doesn’t necessarily get somebody ready for a season and if we don’t feel he’s ready to come up here and contribute and help us win, then we’re going to do the right thing for the organization, period,” Epstein said Thursday before the Cubs game against the Dodgers.

The article goes on to quote Theo as saying regarding Russell, “nothing is promised, whatsoever,” and there are some pretty good indications that the Cubs are quite possibly not going to return Russell to the active 25-man roster May 3. Russell has options remaining and could be optioned and stay at Iowa for however long the team feels he needs there.

Regarding Baez’ position as the starting shortstop, here’s another Theo quote from Greenberg’s article:

“I think everyone recognizes how important he is as a central member of this team and the energy that he provides and the things he can do on the field and the spirit with which he does them, how important that is to all of us,” Epstein said. “He’s one of our most important players and I think there’s a lot to be said for creating consistency for your most important players, creating reliability, putting them into situations where they know they’re relied upon and can impact the game, reduce variables for them, those type of things. But there are a lot of other considerations too. That’s not lost on anybody and, look, Addison is going to play some shortstop in his rehab, he’s also going to play some second base and he’s also not back yet. So I think it’s a question for another day.

“Javy is obviously right at the very center, along with a couple other crucial players, of everything good that we do. Risking interrupting that if you don’t have to would be a questionable move. That said, it’s not the only factor.”

It sounds like Theo is loath to make any changes now that the Cubs are on a roll in which they’ve won 10 of their last 14. Reading between the lines, I’d say Russell is likely not going to be back May 3, that the Cubs will option him, and that when he does come back, it could be as a backup at second base and shortstop.

Russell has some contract bonus language in his contract for this year, which has base pay of $3.4 million. Per Cot’s, here are how the bonuses would be paid out:

roster bonuses: $100,000 each for 30, 60, 90, 120 days on active Major League roster. $200,000 for 150 days

Cot’s says the contract is for $4.3 million, but as you can see, that would only happen if he makes all those bonuses (and that doesn’t add up either, as the bonuses listed above total $600,000). We are now 30 days into the 2019 season, so Russell seems unlikely to make that 150-day bonus.

I don’t think money is the main factor here, though. Based on Theo’s statements above, he’s being very, very cautious with this entire situation and right now, appears to not want to disrupt the current team chemistry. In this Paul Sullivan article in the Tribune, Anthony Rizzo addressed Russell’s possible return:

Will Russell be accepted in the clubhouse?

“I don’t know,” Rizzo replied. “I think so.”

Would his presence affect the clubhouse chemistry?

“I don’t think so because he’s done the right things to better himself,” Rizzo said. “As long as he continues to do, that I don’t think there will ever be (a negative) affect. Does this clubhouse think what he did was right? No. But everyone has made mistakes in their lives, and you just need to look in the mirror and move on and grow or else be a bad person.”

So this is very much a fluid situation. Here’s what Russell told reporters in Des Moines Thursday:

“I have really been putting up some great work on trying to become a better person,” Russell said while meeting with reporters at Des Moines’ Principal Park on Thursday. “I’m not perfect. But I have a positive mindset and I believe that I can help the Cubs come out on top, win and, really, I just want to be a better person altogether. People don’t get it right the first time. But I’m excited I get a second chance.”

If I had to guess right now? I think Russell will be optioned to Iowa once his seven-game rehab stint is up and he won’t return to the Cubs next Friday. One thing that will have to happen to do that is that he’ll have to be returned to the 40-man roster from the restricted list. Most likely, that will be accomplished by the Cubs moving Brandon Morrow to the 60-day injured list.

Once again, I ask that you keep your comments here limited to the question of whether he will or won’t return and not on whether you think he should return or be a Cub going forward; those are things we will address here in the future. Thanks.


Will Addison Russell be added to the Cubs’ 25-man roster on the first day he’s eligible, May 3?

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