CARLSBAD, Calif. – Cubs president Theo Epstein said Monday the club remains open to the possibility of keeping troubled shortstop Addison Russell into 2019, despite early indications from team insiders in September that Russell’s suspension for domestic violence could mean the end of his career with the Cubs.
Epstein, who emphasized “this incident happened on our watch,” said the club remains committed to “solutions” that include player education and prevention within the organization in the future – but also engagement with Russell on “rehabilitation.”
When one beat writer pushed back about why such efforts with Russell have to happen with the Cubs, Epstein said, “It doesn’t, necessarily.
“But, look, this happened on our watch,” he added, “and it’s not like we signed a minor-league free agent and he demonstrated this behavior a month in, and you move on from him. This is somebody that we acquired in double-A. He grew up in large part in our farm system.
“We take credit when players grow up and experience great success on and off the field, and we feel proud of playing a small part of that. When a player has something in their life that goes the other direction or does something that you’re not proud of, does that mean you should automatically cut bait and move on and have it be somebody else’s problem, or maybe society’s problem? Or do you explore the possibility of staying connected to that player with the hope of rehabilitation, including a lot of verification along the way?
“I think these are difficult things to wrestle with,” Epstein added. “But I’m not sure the answer is simply to cast the player aside and hope that someone else performs that work or that the work takes place at all.”
Russell was suspended 40 games under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy after an investigation into online allegations made by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, late in the season – more than a year after initial accusations emerged in a social media post from a friend of Reidy’s.
Russell, who is undergoing mandated counseling under the discipline policy, has 28 games left to serve in 2019.
The club also is working with Russell, said Epstein, who has not made any final decision on the shortstop’s status with the club – which shopped him in trade talks last winter.
“Everything remains an open question,” Epstein said. “The only determination we’ve made is that we need to be part of the solution, both from the organizational standpoint and in supporting the discipline and supporting and exploring a possible road to rehabilitation and improvement”