The deadline for teams to tender contracts for arbitration-eligible players will be on Monday, December 2 at 8 pm ET, and the Chicago Cubs have seven that qualify. They will have important choices to make with the likes of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Willson Contreras, but one name on that record is a possible candidate to become non-tendered: Addison Russell.
MLB Trade Rumors estimates that Russell is going to be expected for something in the area of $5 million in 2020. That’s close to double what he earned this year, and also for a team seeking to trim payroll, non-tendering Russell is an easy way to work toward acquiring a slightly leaner budget.
Away from the field, Russell was the topic of serious domestic violence allegations, the majority of that came to light from 2018. Those were sufficient for him to function a 40-game suspension that began at the conclusion of their 2018 season and ran before early May 2019.
Even though the Cubs front office voiced want a year ago to help Russell by becoming a part of the solution, there are a couple reasons why the song in Chicago this year will probably differ.
First, there is the aforementioned price. The Cubs are proposed by Roster Resource to be about $10 million under the luxury tax threshold in 2020, however they have many players eligible for arbitration and roll up holes to be addressed. An added price of almost $2.5 million for Russell is one that they do not require.
And whatever the cost for Russell could be, he still has not proven that he respects it. In 2019, Russell was worth half a win above replacement, and he has been in steady decline since 2.6 and 3.3 fWAR seasons his first couple of years at the majors in 2015 and 2016. He was essentially relegated into platooning and coming in as a defensive replacement at this season.
Along with that, there were instances when Russell made serious mistakes about the area, for example after in July when he admitted that he didn’t understand the team’s indications . His play at the plateon the area, and also on the basepaths — is increasingly bad.
Between these issues and also the off-the-field troubles, Russell has not made a particularly strong case for the Cubs to maintain him. At this time, he provides some depth at second base and shortstop, however involving Baez, David Bote, a potential yield from Ben Zobrist, and the development of Nico Hoerner, the necessity to maintain Russell from the depth chart isn’t there.
There have also been rumors that the Cubs could be in play to trade with the Royals for second baseman Whit Merrifield, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.
In case a trade similar to that comes to fruition, it might leave Russell’s presence on the roster even more superfluous. Merrifield has been steadily great for the Royals to the past 3 seasons, and also his 81.7 percent contact rate in 2019 will offer a boost at the plate that the Cubs badly desire. They ranked 22nd in the league at contact rate last year (73.3).
Russell was a centerpiece of this July 2014 trade together with the Athletics that famously comprised Oakland vice president Billy Beane telling Cubs president of operations Theo Epstein that he had simply traded him Barry Larkin.
That has not demonstrated to be the case, but Russell is only 25, so the potential remains. However, at this stage, it appears unlikely that he reaches that sort of potential — or anything near it in Chicago.