Addison Russell Tries to Jumpstart Career Overseas, Signs With Kiwoom Heroes
The major league baseball season remains in a state of limbo at this point in time after the negotiations between the owners and players hit another roadblock with the owners rejecting a 70-game proposal by the MLBPA. It was announced that the owners would not present another counterproposal, instead sticking to their 60-game proposal that was presented on Wednesday. With no resolution in sight, players that are still looking for jobs have the option to turn to other leagues like the CPBL, the KBO and the NPB in an effort to try and rejuvenate their careers and perhaps draw interest from MLB teams in the future.
Such is the case for at least one player with a World Series ring to his credit. Addison Russell, who was the starting shortstop for the Cubs when they ended their 108-year drought without a championship in 2016, has agreed to terms on a deal with the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO on Saturday. He signed a one year deal reportedly worth $530,000 after being unable to latch on with another major league team. The Cubs had non-tendered him after last season rather than go through arbitration and pay him the seven-figure salary that would have come with that. His offensive production declined markedly over the past few seasons and he even spent time in the minors last year after saying he needed to become more familiar with the team’s signs.
Apparently, the Heroes inked Russell to a deal mainly because their pursuits of another foreign player fell short. Kiwoom’s GM, Chi-Hyun Kim, stated that the team had tried to reel in Yasiel Puig on a contract but that he had turned down the potential offer, opting instead to try and catch on with a major league team. He remains a free agent at this point in time and it remains to be seen if any team will take a flier on him at this point. That helped create an opportunity for Russell to catch on somewhere, seeing that there was little to no interest by any major league teams when it came to picking him up.
Russell was the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game in 2016 as he hit .238 with 21 homers and 95 RBI on the year. He followed that up with a 13 for 62 showing in the postseason with three homers and 13 RBI as the Cubs went on to beat the Indians in seven games in the World Series. Russell drove in nine runs in the World Series, with six of those coming in Game 6, including a grand slam. His production tailed off after that, as he slashed just .243/.310/.379 over the last three seasons with 26 home runs and 104 RBI over 987 official at-bats and 1,091 plate appearances. His defense continued to be solid but the emergence of Javier Baez made Russell more expendable.
A major factor in Russell’s demise was also centered around his off-field issues. He was suspended 40 games back in late 2018 for violating the league’s domestic violence policy after his ex-wife spoke out about the abuse she suffered. Those issues, coupled with mediocre numbers, led to the Cubs making the decision to non-tender him. Kim stated that the Heroes had done due diligence on Russell, telling Jeeho Yoo of the Yonhap News:
"If he had engaged in physical abuse, he would have been banned for 80 games, but he served only 40 games. Obviously, what he did was wrong, but we felt it wasn't bad enough that he should no longer play baseball."
This will give Russell, once he goes through the 14-day quarantine period after arriving in South Korea, an opportunity to prove that he can still play. He’ll have to make the most of the chance if he hopes to revitalize his career and potentially draw interest in an effort to get back to the majors. We’ll have to see how he does but wish him luck as he tries to turn things around at this point.