The Chicago Cubs answered one of their big offseason questions Friday and it will be sure to cause controversy around Chicago and on social media. The Cubs will keep shortstop Addison Russell for 2019 despite the abuse allegations from his ex-wife Melisa Reidy and the MLB-mandated suspension he’s currently serving for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
The Cubs had until 8 p.m. Friday, MLB’s non-tender deadline, to decide whether to offer Russell a contract for 2019. The Cubs had a perfectly good reason to part ways with Russell, considering he won’t be eligible to play until May and he hasn’t yet delivered on hit potential through four MLB seasons.
The decision was announced with two statements, one from Russell and one from Cubs president Theo Epstein. Russell apologized to his ex-wife and family for his past behavior and explained all the steps he’s taken to become a better person. The Cubs, meanwhile, took responsibility for some of Russell’s behavior, saying it happened on their watch and they want to help him grow as a person. But a key part of Epstein’s statement seems to indicate the team isn’t 100 percent committed to him returning to the field yet. Epstein said this doesn’t “represent the finish line nor rubber-stamp his future as a Cub.”
Here are both statements in full. Click to enlarge.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 30, 2018
Russell, 24, first was met with abuse allegations in 2017 in an Instagram comment from one of his ex-wife’s friends. At the time, he wasn’t punished by MLB because Reidy didn’t want to talk to MLB about the allegations. Earlier this year, she wrote a blog post detailing Russell’s abuse. MLB investigated and suspended Russell for 40 games, a suspension he didn’t appeal.
The suspension ended his season and the Cubs didn’t have to make a choice about Russell’s future until now. While he was once a top prospect, he hasn’t delivered on the field. He was an All-Star in 2016 when he drove in 95 runs and hit 21 homers, but that seems like an outlier against his career .242 average and 162-game average of 16 homers and 70 RBIs.
The question for the Cubs was whether they would continue to invest time in a young player with potential at a relatively cheap rate or take a stand against his behavior by not tendering him a contract. From a public perception standpoint, the second option would have helped with fans who are still angry the Cubs traded for another accused domestic abuser, Aroldis Chapman, to help their 2016 World Series run.
Russell is eligible to return to the Cubs on May 3.
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