Chicago Cubs: Addison Russell’s harrowing fall from grace

(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Another weapon in a growing war chest

By early July, Epstein knew Oakland would get a big-time arm – it was just a matter of whether it would be Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija or Tampa Bay southpaw David Price.

Samardzija, a former Notre Dame football standout, was 2-7 with the Cubs – with a sterling 2.83 earned run average in 17 outings. His win-loss record came courtesy of an offense including the likes of Luis Valbuena, Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara and Nate Schierholtz.

After extension talks went south in spring training, Epstein pretty much knew the right-hander was no longer a long-term asset to the team. If he could trade him for yet another young high-ceiling prospect, it would only help his team’s chances in the long run.

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"“So those days in early July, he (Beane) was going back and forth and I think he was going back and forth on the phone with me and Andrew Friedman, kind of creating an artificial deadline,” Epstein said. “The night of July 3 we were holding our breath because we knew he was going back in for Price. We were just trying to get to a ‘yes.’ I probably talked to Billy 20 times on July 3 and 4th.”"

When the details were ironed out, Epstein sent Samardijza and right-hander Jason Hammel to Oakland in exchange for Billy McKinney, Addison Russell and Dan Straily. A few weeks later, Beane traded Yoenis Cespedes and a draft pick to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. For the first time, Oakland jettisoned their prospect-driven strategy in hopes of winning it all.

But the Athletics stumbled down the stretch, going just 29-38 in the second half after playing to the tune of a .621 winning percentage before the All-Star Break (59-36). Lester imploded in the American League Wild Card game and, just like that, Oakland’s season drew to a disappointing close.

No pennant. No World Series title. And, as pundits pointed out in the offseason, no Addison Russell.