The Chicago Cubs tendered Addison Russell a contract for 2019. What does that mean for the infielder and the roster heading deeper into the offseason?
This date has been circled on the calendar for a while now. Why? Friday marked Major League Baseball’s non-tender deadline. Why was this particularly relevant for the Chicago Cubs? They faced a very important decision when it came to beleaguered infielder Addison Russell.
Russell, 24, will open the 2019 regular season serving the remainder of his 40-game suspension from this summer, stemming from a domestic abuse investigation that originally opened in 2017 before re-surfacing midseason in 2018.
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My personal thoughts on the allegation and subsequent fallout will come later this weekend. Anyone who knows me and regularly reads what I write knows where I stand on the matter. For now, let’s focus on what it means for the Cubs’ makeup.
At least at face value, it means Chicago is going to keep the infield intact and rely on bounce-back campaigns from Russell and Kris Bryant, the latter of whom missed significant time with multiple injuries this year.
Earlier this week, Chicago moved on from pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella, trading him to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later or cash considerations. This move came on the heels of the club trading for Ronald Torreyes, the light-hitting Yankees utility infielder.
In 2018, Addison Russell actually took some steps in the right direction when it comes to offense. He still fell far short of his 21-homer, 95 RBI All-Star campaign from two years ago, but hit above the .250 mark for the first time in his big league career, despite a complete evaporation of his power, as his slugging percentage fell from .418 in 2017 to .340 in 2018.
Both Russell and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein released corresponding statements on Friday afternoon, with the latter emphasizing the following:
"“If we’re willing to accept credit when a member of our organization succeeds on the field, what should we do if he engages in conduct off the field worthy of discipline from Major League Baseball? After a very thorough process, we have chosen to take action to try to become a small part of the solution for Addison, his family, Melisa Reidy and the larger issue of domestic violence prevention.”"
Chicago, as an organization, will undoubtedly want to put this matter behind them once the team opens camp in Mesa in a few short months. For Russell, the same is absolutely true. Aside from that 2016 performance, he’s drastically underperformed and has largely failed to live up to the hype that made him one of the top prospects in the game as a member of the Oakland A’s and, later, as a Chicago Cub.
When it comes to the middle infield, the Cubs seem content in going with what they have – at least for the time being. Of course, there’s nothing stopping Epstein from trading Russell at some point this offseason, but operating without a crystal ball leads me to assume the team is intending on heading into 2019 hoping for the best both on and off the diamond for their young shortstop.