Cubs reach agreement on creative contract for suspended SS Addison Russell
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Even on a day when the Cubs avoided arbitration with all seven of their eligible players, they couldn’t avoid another round of swift public backlash over troubled shortstop Addison Russell and a contract that provides a way for him to recoup money lost while serving an unpaid suspension for domestic violence.
The six others signed Friday, including 2016 MVP Kris Bryant ($12.9 million), all received standard, one-year contracts.
But Russell’s $3.4 million contract includes a series of roster bonuses that can add as much as $600,000, roughly the amount he would lose when he serves the final 29 games of a 40-game suspension to open the season.
His contract includes four $100,000 bonuses for reaching thresholds of 30, 60, 90 and 120 days on the active roster and a $200,000 bonus for reaching 150. He would have 151 or 152 days officially remaining in the season once he’s eligible to return, depending on whether he’s activated on the off day ahead of his May 3 eligible date of return.
As with any one-year contract, the full base value does not become guaranteed until the player makes the Opening Day roster, and only 30 days of pay is guaranteed if the player is released anytime before March 12.
If Russell stays healthy and in good standing, the contract officially becomes a $4 million deal. He spent time on the disabled list each of the last two seasons.
For the budget-strapped Cubs, the structure of the deal would mean they’re on the hook for a base of $2.8 million, with the full $3.4 million owed only if they get a 150-day return on the field.
It also potentially makes his contract more attractive to another team if the Cubs decide to shop him in trade talks.
Russell made $3.2 million in 2018, and if not for the off-the-field issues, he was expected to command well above $4 million this season.
Russell was suspended in October after a lengthy investigation by Major League Baseball into allegations of physical and emotional abuse made by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, on social-media posts.
He missed the final 11 games of the season on administrative leave as MLB concluded its investigation.
Team president Theo Epstein repeatedly has said that the club accepts part of the responsibility for what happened on its watch and that “the most important thing going forward is to be part of the solution and to focus on making this a better place.”
He vowed to hold Russell accountable as the team monitors his progress during a league-mandated therapy and education program and through work with his personal therapist.
Epstein also said: “Before he can play another game in a Cubs uniform, we need to know that he’s serious about self-improvement and he’s grown to the point where he can represent the club well.”
In addition to Russell’s deal, the Cubs signed the other arbitration-eligible players on the deadline day for players and clubs to exchange salary figures for arbitration if they don’t reach agreements.
Bryant, who missed lengthy stretches in 2018 because of a left shoulder injury, gets a raise of slightly more than $2 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He’s expected to be at full strength for the start of spring training next month.
And 2018 MVP runner-up Javy Baez agreed to a $5.2 million deal in his first winter of arbitration eligibility.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks signed for $7.405 million; left fielder Kyle Schwarber for $3.39 million; left-hander Mike Montgomery for $2.44 million; and right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. for $1.5 million.
Hendricks, who led the majors with a 2.13 ERA in 2016, was 14-11 with a 3.44 ERA last season, when he made $4.175 million.
Schwarber hit .238 with a .356 on-base percentage and 26 homers in 510 plate appearances last year, when he made $604,500.
Montgomery, who made $611,250 last year, played a critical role in the Cubs’ 95-win season when he left the bullpen to make a career-high 19 starts with a 3.69 ERA, filling in for the injured Yu Darvish and ineffective Tyler Chatwood.