CHICAGO (AP) — The Cubs offered suspended shortstop Addison Russell a 2019 contract while maintaining Friday his future with the team is not certain.
Russell is serving a 40-game domestic violence suspension following allegations by his ex-wife.
President of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called the decision a “procedural step” and said it “does not represent the finish line nor rubber-stamp his future” with them.
“It does however reflect our support for him as long as he continues to make progress and demonstrates his commitment to these important issues,” Epstein added.
Teams had a deadline Friday to offer contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man rosters. Chicago failed to offer deals to infielder Ronald Torreyes, obtained from the Yankees this week, and also cut loose pitchers Justin Hancock and Allen Webster.
Russell accepted a 40-game suspension last October for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. The decision followed allegations made by his ex-wife Melisa Reidy. Though Russell has denied the allegations, he apologized to Reidy and his family for “my past behavior.”
Russell had a $3.2 million salary last season. His unpaid suspension includes the 11 regular-season games he missed after being placed on administrative leave Sept. 21. Russell will be eligible to return on May 3 against St. Louis, barring any postponements.
“Since accepting my suspension, I’ve had time to reflect on my past behavior and think about the next steps I need to take to grow as a person,” Russell said in a statement issued by the Cubs.
Russell said he will meet regularly with experts and counselors mandated by his treatment plan. He said he also plans to keep working with his own therapist, whom he has been seeing several times a week the past two months.
He also hopes to work with non-profit groups in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida, as well as Chicago and Arizona “to become part of the solution.”
“I am just in the early stages of this process,” Russell said. “It is work that goes far beyond being a baseball player. It goes to my core values of being the best family man, partner, and teammate that I can be, and giving back to the community and the less fortunate. While there is a lot of work ahead for me to earn back the trust of the Cubs fans, my teammates, and the entire organization, it’s work that I am 110 percent committed to doing.”
Epstein said the Cubs have consulted with domestic violence experts to help them raise awareness and prevent more incidents, and the team has remained in touch with Reidy “to support her and to listen.” Epstein said he and chairman Tom Ricketts met with Russell in Chicago this week to “assess his progress and communicate our expectations as he works to earn back the trust of our fans and entire organization.”
MLB began an investigation last year after allegations against Russell first became public.
Reidy had posted a photo on her Instagram account with a caption suggesting her husband of about 18 months had been unfaithful to her. In another post, a user described by Reidy as a close friend claimed Russell had “hit” his wife. The post was later deleted. Reidy declined to talk to MLB at the time because she decided it was not in her family’s best interests, her lawyer, Thomas Field, said last year.
Reidy published a blog post in September describing more detailed allegations, including years of physical and emotional abuse. Less than 12 hours later, MLB announced Russell had been put on leave under MLB’s domestic violence policy.
The Cubs have been willing to employ players following suspensions under the domestic violence policy. All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman served a 30-game ban with the Yankees in 2016 before Chicago acquired him midseason and utilized him to help end a 106-year World Series title drought.
Epstein said the Cubs are “taking a hard look at how we can support domestic violence prevention.” He said they have dedicated more resources for training players, their families, coaches and the front office to create “the safest workplace possible.”
He said the Cubs are also working with Family Rescue, an organization based in Chicago dedicated to community education and helping victims of domestic violence.
“We understand every action we take and word we use sends a message to our fans — all of whom have their own unique experiences and perspectives, and some of whom have a personal connection to domestic violence,” Epstein said. “The message we would like to leave you with is we take the issue of domestic violence seriously. There is a long road ahead for Addison, and we will hold him accountable. There also is a long road ahead for our organization as we attempt to make some good of this situation. We are committed to being a part of the solution.”
The Cubs offered 2019 contracts to six other players eligible for arbitration: NL MVP runner-up Javier Baez, 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant, outfielder Kyle Schwarber and pitchers Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery.
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