Given the seriousness of the situation surrounding Addison Russell, the Cubs understood that Friday's decision on the shortstop would draw a great deal of attention. The organization has opted to keep Russell on board rather than part ways, and the club indicated a desire to work with Russell going forward.Chicago
Given the seriousness of the situation surrounding Addison Russell, the Cubs understood that Friday's decision on the shortstop would draw a great deal of attention. The organization has opted to keep Russell on board rather than part ways, and the club indicated a desire to work with Russell going forward.
Chicago tendered a 2019 contract to Russell -- who is in the midst of serving a 40-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy -- following accusations made by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy. Eligible for arbitration this offseason, Russell is ineligible for activation until May 3 after accepting the suspension in October, retroactive to Sept. 21.
"The behavior that led to Addison Russell's suspension under Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence Policy happened on our watch," said Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, in a lengthy statement. "We traded for Addison when he was a 20-year-old Double-A player, helped him develop into a world champion and welcomed the praise that came along with his triumphs.
"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."
Russell also issued a statement.
"I offer my heartfelt apology to my family and my former wife Melisa for my past behavior," Russell said. "I also want to apologize to Cubs fans, the Cubs organization, and my teammates for letting them down. 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 proceeded to list steps he has taken over the past two months. He noted that he accepted MLB's suspension without appeal and has complied with the treatment plan provided by MLB and the MLB Players Association. Russell added that he will be meeting regularly with experts, counselors and therapists, and already took the step of finding his personal therapist for weekly meetings that will continue beyond the plan he was given.
"I am responsible for my actions," Russell said. "With that therapy, I am attempting to improve myself by learning new outlooks and understanding different emotions. After I have done my own therapy and gained new insights into myself, I hope to be able to work with nonprofit groups in Pensacola, Chicago, and Arizona to support their missions and become part of the solution."
Russell, 24, earned $3.2 million last season and is likely due for a raise via arbitration after hitting .250 with five homers, 38 RBIs and a .657 OPS in 130 games. The shortstop, who will begin the season on MLB's restricted list, also contributed 13 Defensive Runs Saved in 1,003 2/3 innings. Over the past two years, Russell has not been able to match the 21 homers and 95 RBIs he posted as an All-Star in 2016, but he has remained steady in the field.
Given that Russell will miss the season's first month while finishing his suspension, the Cubs will need a contingency plan in place at shortstop. They acquired Ronald Torreyes in a trade with the Yankees on Wednesday but elected to non-tender the arbitration-eligible utility infielder prior to Friday's 7 p.m. CT deadline. Chicago maintains interest in trying to re-sign Torreyes, who is now a free agent, but will surely explore other alternatives via free agency and trade. National League MVP runner-up Javier Baez can stick at short until Russell returns, and Chicago has in-house options for second base in Benjamin Zobrist, Ian Happ and David Bote.
In his statement, Epstein noted that the Cubs have maintained dialogue with Reidy to get her input on the ongoing situation. The team also consulted with domestic violence experts over the past two months. Earlier this week, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and Epstein met with Russell in Chicago to assess the shortstop's progress and to address expectations as he works to "earn back the trust of our fans and entire organization."
"I accept and am completely committed to meeting those expectations," 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."
The deadline to exchange proposed salary figures with arbitration-eligible players is Jan. 11, but the Cubs can negotiate a deal with Russell at any point leading up to a scheduled arbitration hearing. Epstein said Friday's decision "does not represent the finish line nor rubber-stamp his future as a Cub."
As long as Russell continues to demonstrate progress and commitment to the issues at hand, Epstein said he will have the support of the organization. The team's front-office leader also said the ballclub has its own work to do in addressing domestic violence in a broader sense.
"Just as Addison has a responsibility to own his actions and put in significant work to grow," Epstein said, "our organization has a responsibility to act as well. We're taking a hard look at how we can support domestic violence prevention. In our own workplace, we are dedicating more resources to expand training for our players, their families and our coaching staff and front office.
"We will engage the appropriate experts to help us design programs for the Cubs which raise awareness of domestic violence, help prevent future incidents and make us the safest workplace possible. We also have connected with Family Rescue, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to serving survivors of domestic violence and community education and prevention. We're exploring ways we can support their award-winning efforts to eradicate domestic violence in Chicago.
"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. 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."
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.