The Cubs never have shut the door on keeping Russell, even after Major League Baseball levied a 40-game suspension retroactive to Sept. 21 after the Cubs lost their wild-card playoff game.
Some believe his reputation has been too tarnished for the Cubs to keep him, and expect a trade of the 24-year-old shortstop this offseason.
But Russell’s agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday at the general managers meetings that he believes the Cubs will bring him back in 2019.
“We’re communicating closely with the Cubs and Addison is working on his therapy,” he said. “And going forward the team is clearly in line and directly involved with Addison, and I have no expectation otherwise.
“I have not been told otherwise.”
It’s still too early to say whether Russell will be back in May when his suspension ends. Russell is undergoing treatment for his behavioral issues and the Cubs haven’t given any indication on his future.
“Everything remains an open question,” Cubs President Theo Epstein said Monday. “We haven’t made any determinations. The only determination we’ve made is that we need to be part of the solution both from an organizational standpoint in supporting the discipline and supporting and exploring a possible road to rehabilitation and improvement.”
Boras said any organization likely would keep someone in Russell’s situation if they believe he has learned and grown from such a situation and it won’t be repeated.
“As long as they know that’s the player’s attitude, I’m sure, as in most cases in the past, teams understand they have an athlete who wants to address things and move forward,” he said.
Russell denied the allegations in September when his former wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, made them in a blog she posted on social media. But he ultimately accepted the 40-game suspension and agreed to undergo treatment.
Was that an admission of guilt from Russell?
Boras evaded the question.
“Anytime you accept a course of action where there is a direction given, the idea that we look at is (whether) Addison is getting therapy,” Boras said. “Addison is growing and understanding the responsibilities of his team, his league, his city and as you can see from the suspension, there are different levels and different elements of conduct.
“The learning curve of this is good for everybody. It’s good for the league, it’s good for baseball and, in the end, it has been really, really good for Addison going forward. Anytime we try to improve people and have a system that does that and brings attention to things in a society that makes us better on and off the field, it’s a very positive step.”
Epstein’s main concern is ensuring Russell’s behavior is not repeated, regardless of whether he remains with the Cubs. He said he has spoken to Russell about “self-improvement and adding more stability to his life” in the future.
“He has been handed his discipline and he will serve it,” Epstein said. “I also think part of the solution can possibly include rehabilitation and reformation, and taking steps to examine whether the individual is worth the investment so he can grow so that this never happens again with him.”