Not too long ago, the Chicago Cubs added Addison Russell in a blockbuster deal. Now, the future is more uncertain than ever regarding the former top prospect.
The Chicago Cubs acquired Addison Russell from the Oakland Athletics in the 2014 trade that also brought Billy Kinney and Dan Straily and sent pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija west. The deal was another in a series of moves that strengthened the Cubs as they rebuilt. Now, the team is facing a dilemma over how to resolve their shortstop’s future. And the clock is ticking.
How will all this play out? We’ll know by the end of the month. But before that, let’s dig into Russell’s 2018 season. With a 2018 slash line of .250/.317/.340 it was his best year in terms of batting average since joining the Chicago Cubs roster in 2015. His K rate dropped to 21.7 percent and his BB rate jumped to 8.6 percent, Russell’s best since 2016.
Russell’s .340 slugging percentage was the worst ever. He hit just 5 home runs in 465 plate appearances in 130 games and drove in just 38 runs. He endured his worst year in terms of WAR (2.0), oWAR (0.7), runs better than average (6.0), and wRC+ (80).
The first half of the season was respectable (.272/.345/.391). His peak month of June (.329/.386/.481) was among the best for the 24-year-old shortstop. But his second half was abysmal (.198/.246/.222), hitting the bottom in September (.158/.220/.158).
The “D” didn’t hold
Defensively Russell’s numbers also suffered. His .969 fielding percentage was the worst of his career and was below league average at shortstop for the first time ever.
In 2018 Russell committed twelve errors in 808 1/3 innings compared to14 errors in 1262 2/3 innings in 2017. Nonetheless, he is still considered a top shortstop and with Javier Baez is part of a very potent middle infield.
So, there it was, the not very good and at times just awful 2018 version of Addison Russell. I think some degree of the down season is due to the injuries he played with almost all season (finger, left hand), even after his DL stint.
Administrative leave, suspension, and an uncertain future
Then came the Instagram post from Melisa Reidy, Russell’s ex-wife, detailing physical and emotional abuse during their marriage. Russell was placed on administrative leave by MLB and later accepted a 40-game suspension that he’ll continue to serve to open 2019.
So now what? Will the Cubs part ways with their young shortstop? Will they attempt to shop him in the hope of getting some value in return? Or will the Cubs re-sign Russell? He’s in his second year of arbitration and earned $3.2 million in 2018. What should the Cubs do might be the better question and the views on this are both very different and very strong.
In any event, we will know by November 30 for that is the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. It also the deadline to inform players whether they will receive a contract for 2019 or become free agents. There are over 200 players eligible for arbitration and I believe the Cubs will see who else hits the market before making a decision on Russell’s future with the Cubs.