CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs tendered contracts for the 2020 season to six arbitration eligible players but non-tendered infielder Addison Russell. Russell, 25, becomes a free agent after five years with the team, his final two seasons marked by controversy.
The second baseman/shortstop was suspended for 40 games near the end of the 2018 season for violating the league’s domestic abuse policies. Despite that suspension, the Cubs tendered him a contract for the 2019 season as he sat out the first 28 games of last season to complete his suspension. His on-the-field game suffered as he dealt with the consequences of his off-the-field actions.
He was demoted to the minors last summer not long after telling ESPN he needed to be “more familiar” with the signs. Russell’s OPS dipped below .700 in 2018 and 2019 after several promising years to begin his career.
Cubs president Theo Epstein issued a statement regarding Russell.
“We decided to non-tender Addison Russell today simply because the role we expected him to play for the 2020 Cubs was inconsistent with how he would have been treated in the salary arbitration process,” he said. “In the year since we decided to tender Addison a contract last November, he has lived up to his promise to put in the important self-improvement work necessary off the field and has shown growth, as a person, as a partner, as a parent and as a citizen. We hope and believe that Addison’s work will continue, and we have offered our continued support of him and his family, including Melisa.
“In the last year, the organization has also put in the important work necessary to bolster our domestic violence prevention training for all employees, all major league players, all minor league players and all staff. We also offered healthy relationship workshops for the players’ partners and provided intensive, expert domestic violence prevention training for player-facing staff. This heightened training and our increased community involvement on the urgent issue of domestic violence prevention will continue indefinitely. We wish Addison and his family well.”
Russell was the NL All-Star Game starter at shortstop in 2016, the same year he helped the Cubs to a World Series title for the first time in 108 years. He hit a Game 6 grand slam, which essentially won the contest for the Cubs, who trailed 3-2 in the series at the time.
The next season, Russell compiled a .722 OPS while playing solid defense, though issues in his former marriage began to surface. The league’s investigation concluded late in 2018 when he was suspended in September, but not for any one incident.
Russell was acquired from Oakland for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4, 2014 in a trade widely praised for Chicago.
Cubs who were tendered contracts for 2020 include Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr, Willson Contreras and pitcher Kyle Ryan. The Cubs also came to terms with righty Jharel Cotton, who they acquired from Oakland last week, for $640,000. The team also tendered contracts to 19 other players not yet arbitration eligible players.