“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 of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement. “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 [ex-wife] Melisa [Reidy].”
Russell was suspended in October 2018, and the ban was made retroactive to Sept. 21 of that year, when the Cubs placed him on administrative leave. The team made that move shortly after Reidy published a blog post alleging she suffered physical and emotional abuse from Russell over their approximately two-year marriage.
“The first time I was physically mistreated by my spouse, I was in shock,” Reidy wrote in her post. “ … Why did he get so angry? What did I do for him to want to put his hands on me? … I couldn’t understand how this man I was so in love with, the FATHER of my child, the man I married just a few months ago could show such aggression toward me.”
Accusations of abuse by Russell first surfaced in 2017, after which MLB commenced an investigation. The Florida native initially denied the allegations, but in a February media session he said (via the Chicago Sun-Times), “I’m accountable for my past actions. I am not proud of the person I was.”
“Without getting into details or specifics, I just want to own that what I did was wrong and inexcusable,” Addison said at the time. “And I’m sorry. Sorry for the hurt and pain I put Melisa through.”
Russell, 25, served the remaining 28 games of his suspension at the start of the 2019 season, then returned to a mixed reaction from Chicago fans and frequent boos on the road. Over 82 games played this year with the Cubs — Russell was also demoted to the minor leagues for a 27-game stint — he batted .237, with nine home runs, 23 RBI, a .308 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage.
Russell continued to display above-average defensive skills while playing shortstop and second baseman this past season, but his wins above replacement mark dropped to 0.1 (per Baseball Reference), a far cry from the 4.1 he posted in 2016. That season saw him hit 21 home runs with 95 RBI, and his grand slam in Game 6 of the World Series was a pivotal moment as the Cubs marched to their first championship in 108 years.
Acquired by Chicago as the prized prospect in a 2014 trade that sent starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics, Russell immediately became the highest-ranked player in a Cubs farm system that also boasted the likes of infielder Javier Baez and outfielders Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.
Baez, Bryant and Almora were all tendered contracts Monday by the Cubs, ahead of that day’s MLB deadline for such transactions (Soler was traded in 2016 to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Wade Davis). Other arbitration-eligible players in the organization who were tendered contracts included outfielder Kyle Schwarber, catcher Willson Contreras and pitcher Kyle Ryan.
Hours before the 2018 non-tender deadline, the Cubs offered Russell a contract, despite him being in the midst of his suspension. Epstein said in a statement at the time (via NBC Chicago) that his team made the decision while maintaining a “regular dialogue” with Reidy and in consultation with “a number of domestic violence experts.”
“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,” Epstein said then. “It does however reflect our support for him as long as he continues to make progress and demonstrates his commitment to these important issues.”
In his statement Monday, Epstein asserted that over the past year the Cubs had “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.” The team, he said, 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,” Epstein said. “We wish Addison and his family well.”