An Addison Russell Trade Proposal that Makes Sense for Both Teams
Given all that surrounds him, Addison Russell may have played his last game as a Cub. First and foremost are the credible accusations of spousal abuse laid out by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, which led to a 40-game suspension (29 games of which still remain). Then there’s Russell’s offensive stagnation in 2018, which, combined with Javier Baez’s breakout, means the Cubs were probably already thinking about replacing Russell at shortstop even before the far more important and pressing matter of domestic violence resurfaced.
Yet, as my colleague Jeff Burdick astutely noted, the Cubs are not going to just hand the arbitration-eligible Russell to a competitor by choosing not to tender him a contract offer this winter. Also, Russell cannot be optioned to the minors, which leaves a trade as the only likely way for the Cubs to to part with him. I suspect the Cubs are willing to deal Russell for less than they would in an ideal market, but will still demand a fair return.
We’ve seen in the past that teams — including the Cubs themselves in the case of Aroldis Chapman — are not always scared off by players with a DV jacket. And Russell is still a former All-Star; a top-10 defensive shortstop with 20 home run power and three remaining years of club control. He has significant trade value to the right team.
So who might be willing to trade for Russell? One hypothetical scenario that keeps popping into my head is a shortstop swap with the Angels.
The Angels have a generational talent in Mike Trout under contract for two more seasons. Yet they had an 80-82 record in 2019. They are not going to rebuild with Trout in his prime and Shohei Ohtani looking like he could live up to the hype, but they need to shake up their team if they want to reach the postseason.
The Angels have over $124 million in committed salary and another $24.5 million in estimated arbitration contracts for 2019, giving them nearly $150 million total. They have never had a payroll above $167 million dollars ($166 million payrolls the past two years), which means they likely have less than $20 million to fill holes in the rotation and bullpen, plus second base. And with very few quality prospects to trade away, they may need to move players from their active roster.
One potential trade chip is Andrelton Simmons, who has been a top-flight shortstop the past two years, averaging around 6.6 bWAR per season. He is 29 years old and has two years remaining on his contract at $13 and $15 million annually. I think there is a lot of potential for a Cubs-Angels trade centered around Simmons and Russell.
The Cubs could offer Russell in combination with Ian Happ and/or Mike Montgomery for Simmons, a trade that nearly duplicates several of the Manny Machado rumors we heard last offseason. The Angels would (1) obtain a cost controlled second baseman (Happ) or starter (Montgomery); (2) replace a great shortstop with a cheaper, younger version with considerable upside and an extra year of control; and (3) free up about $7-9 million in annual salary to fill yet another hole in free agency.
The Cubs, meanwhile, would get a quality shortstop in his prime for two years. Yes, they would be buying high on Simmons. But this could be a deal that makes sense for both sides, if LA is willing to take the PR hit.
I am well aware the Cubs do not need to trade for a shortstop and can simply keep Baez there while giving Ben Zobrist more regular innings at second. Indeed, I suspect this remains option A. But this does leave the Cubs extremely vulnerable at short in the event of a Baez injury. If the Cubs want to trade Russell for any number of reasons, a deal like the one laid out above makes sense.
On a related note, I would happily trade Russell, Happ, Montgomery, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora Jr. for Trout. But that is another topic altogether.
Ed. note: While I’m somewhat opposed to the concept of trade proposals in general, my disdain is rooted primarily in the social media fanfic that usually involves trading five crappy players for one good one. Or how people will yell out, “He sucks, trade him!” Yeah, because clearly a bad player has lots of value and lumping in more bad players will make anything worthwhile.
So I wasn’t super excited when Moshe first broached the idea for this piece, both due to my general feelings and the whole idea of what to do with Russell. But I feel as though he approached it from an excellent perspective and laid out a good deal more rationale than the silliness you find out there.