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Cubs’ trade for IF Ronald Torreyes about depth, not Addison Russell’s status

The Cubs added middle infield depth in a small trade Wednesday, but it has less to do with troubled shortstop Addison Russell’s status with the club than backup infielder Tommy La Stella’s.

The Cubs were in need of infield depth this winter regardless of whether they decide to keep Russell through the rest of a 40-game suspension he received in September under baseball’s domestic violence policy.

The trade with the Yankees for the versatile Ronald Torreyes for a player to be named later or cash fills that need, but it falls well short of any reasonable insurance against a possible decision to move on from Russell.

The move comes two days ahead of Friday’s non-tender deadline, with the Cubs continuing in the final days to mull whether to tender the arbitration-eligible Russell a contract and retain his rights for 2019 – independent of the Torreyes trade.

Ronald Torreyes with the Cubs during spring training 2013. (John Antonoff photo)

Russell, Torreyes and La Stella are among nine arbitration-eligible Cubs subject to Friday’s deadline.

Whether the Cubs tender La Stella – who set a franchise record with 24 pinch hits last season – Torreyes looks like a threat for the last backup infield job.

La Stella, a lefty, is the better hitter off the bench, but Torreyes, a right-handed hitter, is a better fielder and far more versatile.

Torreyes, 26, has played mostly second base in his professional career but played shortstop in 213 games, including 60 in the big leagues (42 starts).

He’s a .281 hitter with a .310 on-base percentage – hitting .292 in a career-high 108 games in 2017, including significant work filling in when injuries sidelined shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Starlin Castro.

Projected by mlbtraderumors.com for a $900,000 arbitration salary, Torreyes also brings the important added value of having minor-league options left.

Torreyes, a popular teammate in New York, was a one-time Cubs minor-leaguer acquired from the Reds in 2011 in the Sean Marshall-Travis Wood trade during Theo Epstein’s first two months as Cubs president. He was subsequently traded to the Astros for cash in July 2013.

The 5-8 Torres with Baez during spring 2013 (John Antonoff photo)

Russell’s status has been in doubt since a yearlong investigation into domestic violence allegations involving his then-wife resulted in the suspension and mandated participation in an education/counseling program.

He has 28 days left to serve at the start of the 2019 season.

Russell is projected to make about $4.3 million through arbitration (minus the prorated percentage for the month he’s suspended).

Epstein said during the general managers meetings early this month that the club is open Russell’s return pending its evaluation of Russell’s progress this winter and the club’s expectations of his future behavior.

“Before he can play another game in a Cubs uniform, we need to know that he’s serious about self-improvement and has grown to the point where he can represent the club well,” Epstein said then.

The Cubs have MVP runner-up and Gold Glove finalist Javy Baez capable of handling the everyday job at short at a high level.

Roster note: The Cubs on Wednesday also re-signed left-handed reliever Kyle Ryan to a big-league deal, filling their final spot on the 40-man roster. He spent the 2018 season pitching at AAA Iowa for the Cubs after spending parts of the previous four seasons in the majors with the Tigers.