Once a promising core of the Cubs, the team finally ended the Addison Russell era after underperforming and off-the-field issues destroyed his image.
From the one year too late department, the Cubs ended the Addison Russell saga by non-tendering the 25-year-old. Russell was once a promising player, who smacked a critical grand slam in Game 6 of the 2016 World Series, and Len Kasper even went as far as proclaiming him as a “future MVP” during the 2017 Ring Ceremony. But if Russell has any aspirations of becoming an MVP, he’ll now have to do so with another team.
He was projected to make $5.1 million in arbitration this offseason, which was a sizeable increase from the $3.4 million he earned last offseason. However, Russell was serving a 40-game suspension for his domestic violence allegations, and Theo Epstein felt that he deserved one more chance to bounce back. That didn’t happen as Russell was good for a 0.1 WAR in 2019 while batting .237 in 82 games.
His production significantly dropped off after the 2016 season that saw him put 21 bombs into the seats but combined to hit just 26 over the next three seasons. I am sure that Russell’s off-the-field issues had a part in his decline, but his .924 fielding percentage in 2019 was by far a career-worst.
Javier Baez uprooted Russell as the everyday shortstop, and Russell failed to grasp the starting second base gig, which saw a slew of players attempt to lock it down. While it’s not immediately clear where Russell might end up, a fresh start is best for both parties and a look around the league – at teams in need of a second baseman – suggests that he could end up with the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, or Miami Marlins. Russell likely won’t be signed to a team that is ready to contend as the teams above are in a rebuild mode, but that’s the nature of the situation.
He’s still young, and, in the right scenario, Russell can become the player he was projected to be, but he won’t be doing that in a Cubs uniform. Now that the Cubs have a conclusion to the Russell era in Chicago, they will need to sort out who is going to play second base in 2020.