Marred with controversy, Addison Russell’s time with the Chicago Cubs officially came to an end Monday night.
The Cubs have non-tendered Russell and will let him walk as an unrestricted free agent for the 2020 season, a decision announced Monday night just before the MLB deadline for contract decisions for arbitration-eligible players. Russell was reportedly projected to earn a contract of nearly $5 million if he had remained with the team.
“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,” Cubs President Theo Epstein said in a statement Monday night.”
The troubled infielder arrived in Chicago as a top MLB prospect during a trade with the Oakland Athletics in 2014, but he struggled to live up to expectations during his five-season tenure apart from his All-Star season in 2016. He was also given a 40-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic-abuse policy after the league found credibility in allegations his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, made against him in a blog post in September 2018.
Russell faced being non-tendered last November, but Epstein gave him a “conditional second chance” and allowed him one more season to earn his keep.
“In the year since we decided to tend 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,” Epstein’s statement continued. “We hope and believe that Addison’s work and growth will continue, and we have offered our continued support of him and his family, including Melisa.”
Russell missed the beginning of last season serving the remainder of his suspension and batted just .237 with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 82 games for the Cubs, getting demoted to Triple-A in July before getting recalled later in the season.
Cubs Tender Contracts With Several Stars
Part of the consideration with paying the price for Russell was how much the Cubs still needed to pay their other, more successful names.
Especially after Russell’s departure, it should come as little surprise the Cubs also tendered 2020 contracts with outfielder Albert Almora Jr., shortstop Javier Báez, third baseman Kris Bryant, catcher Willson Contreras, left-hander Kyle Ryan and outfielder Kyle Schwarber ahead of Monday night’s deadline — effectively initiating the arbitration process for all of them.
The Cubs also signed right-hander Jharel Cotton to a one-year, $640,000 non-guaranteed contract to avoid arbitration, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The 27-year-old Cotton has gone nearly two years without playing after undergoing two separate surgeries, including Tommy John surgery on his right elbow that wiped out his entire 2018 season.
Left-hander Danny Hultzen, though, met a similar fate to Russell and was allowed to become a free agent after pitching just 3 1/3 innings for the Cubs in 2019. The 29-year-old tossed a scoreless inning in his major league debut against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 8 but returned to the minors before the end of the month.