Chicago Cubs officials said giving suspended shortstop Addison Russell a second chance was “the right thing to do” for all parties, not in any way an endorsement of his having violated the league’s domestic abuse policy.
Speaking to ESPN 1000 radio in Chicago on Thursday, team owner Tom Ricketts and general manager Jed Hoyer defended their decision last week to sign Russell to a $3.4 million contract for 2019.
Russell, who turns 25 next week, was suspended for 40 games last September after details emerged about abuse allegations during his marriage to his former wife. He is not eligible to play until May.
“The fact that we have decided — after talking to lots of experts, after talking to Addison multiple times, talking to the league — that we’d rather support him through the process than just cut him and let him go, that doesn’t mean it’s in conflict with support for victims of domestic violence,” Ricketts said. “I think that it’s not an easy decision and not a decision that anyone takes lightly.”
The contract is considered well below market value for the former All-Star, who has a .242 career average with 51 homers and 230 RBIs in 533 games with the Cubs since 2015.
Hoyer said he wasn’t surprised by the negative reaction of some Chicago fans regarding the signing.
“We knew that it would be unpopular in some ways,” Hoyer said. “People have a visceral reaction to reading about what happened. So did we. The more that we worked and talked to experts and worked through it … we felt like having a conditional second chance was the right thing to do. It was recommended by experts.”
Under the terms of his contract, the Cubs can cut Russell for one-sixth of his salary or he could be traded, even during his suspension.