Russell, 25, will miss the first month of the season after accepting a 40-game suspension late in 2018 after his ex-wife Melisa Reidy accused him of domestic abuse in a blog post. From the start, the Cubs have said they want to see Russell get help while also being a positive force on the issue.
Though the Cubs tendered him a contract for next year, it still doesn’t mean Russell will suit up for them again. The move on Friday simply prevented Russell, who made $4.3 million last season, from becoming a free agent.
“While this decision leaves the door open for Addison to later make an impact for us on the field, it does not represent the finish line nor rubber-stamp his future as a Cub,” team president Theo Epstein said in a statement. “It does however reflect our support for him as long as he continues to make progress.”
Russell issued a statement Friday offering his “heartfelt apology” to his family, his ex-wife and the team for “letting them down” with his past behavior.
“Since accepting my suspension, I’ve had time to reflect on my past behavior and think about the next steps I need to take to grow as a person,” Russell said. “… I am just in the early stages of this process. It is work that goes far beyond being a baseball player — it goes to my core values of being the best family man, partner, and teammate that I can be, and giving back to the community and the less fortunate.
“While there is a lot of work ahead for me to earn back the trust of the Cubs fans, my teammates, and the entire organization, it’s work that I am 110 percent committed to doing.”
Russell said he’s taken responsibility for his actions, has complied with the MLB-MLBPA treatment plan, has sought out therapy on his own and has met with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and Epstein.
“The behavior that led to Addison Russell’s suspension under Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence Policy happened on our watch,” Epstein said in a statement Friday. “… 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.”
Abuse issues in his former marriage surfaced via social media in 2017, but the case didn’t come to a head until Russell’s ex-wife detailed the abuse late last season and then met with MLB investigators.
The team is monitoring Russell’s progress as he’s been in counseling as part of his deal with the league. The Cubs want to see “self-improvement.”
“We understand every action we take and word we use sends a message to our fans — all of whom have their own unique experiences and perspectives, and some of whom have a personal connection to domestic violence,” Epstein said. “The message we would like to leave you with is we take the issue of domestic violence seriously.
“There is a long road ahead for Addison, and we will hold him accountable. There also is a long road ahead for our organization as we attempt to make some good of this situation. We are committed to being a part of the solution.”