Addison Russell

Former Cubs shortstop Addison Russell set to sign with KBO's Kiwoom Heroes

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USA TODAY

Former Cubs shortstop Addison Russell set to sign with KBO's Kiwoom Heroes

Former Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is nearing a deal to join the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Friday night.

Russell's embattled Cubs tenure came to an end last December after the club opted not to tender him a contract. His time on the North Side was beset with on- and off-the-field struggles, and the 26-year-old never lived up to his pedigree as one of the game's former top prospects (No. 3 overall in 2015, per Baseball America).

MLB suspended Russell 40 games at the end of the 2018 season for violating the league's domestic abuse policies. The Cubs tendered him a deal for 2019 and he rejoined the club in May. They demoted him to Triple-A in July following a series of mental lapses on the field, both on the bases and defensively.

Russell always rated average or better defensively but never replicated his offensive output from 2016, when he hit 21 homers with 95 RBIs. His OPS dipped under .700 the past two seasons as Javier Báez simultaneously emerged at the plate. Báez' ascension and Gold Glove caliber defense, along with Nico Hoerner's quick path to the big leagues and ability to play short and second base, made Russell expendable.

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Baseball Prospectus takes shot at Addison Russell in their latest annual

Baseball Prospectus takes shot at Addison Russell in their latest annual

Addison Russell is no longer with the Cubs and he hasn’t yet found a new home in baseball, but he hasn’t escaped being on the receiving end of some tough shots.

Baseball Prospectus, which produces a book each year with team and player capsules, breakdowns and projections, took such a shot. Their blurb for Russell is short and direct.


“The 24-hour national domestic violence hotline number is 800-799-7233.”

Russell was infamously suspended for domestic abuse late in 2018. He returned to the Cubs in 2019, but was not tendered a contract after the season, making him a free agent.

Russell hasn’t found a new landing place with spring training already underway. With this still hanging over his head, it’s no secret as to why.

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Javy Baez is the top defensive infielder in the game

Javy Baez is the top defensive infielder in the game

By one metric, Javy Baez is the top defensive infielder in Major League Baseball.

Yet somehow, he wasn't even a Top 3 finalist for the National League Gold Glove Award at shortstop.

Infield Outs Above Average is a new metric by Statcast released Wednesday to measure the overall impact of an infielder. If the OAA stat seems familiar, it's because it has been around as a way to evaluate MLB outfielders over the last couple seasons.

By this new stat, Baez is the top defensive infielder in the game, coming in with a +19 OAA. That makes him a bit better than Nolan Arenado. The entire Top 10 list is as follows:

Baez: +19
Arenado: +17
Andrelton Simmons: +16
Nick Ahmed: +16
Trevor Story: +15
Matt Chapman: +14
Paul DeJong: +13
Matt Olson: +12
Jose Iglesias: +12
Freddy Galvis: +12

Ahmed won the NL Gold Glove for shortstop, with DeJong and Story coming in behind him. All three players find themselves on this list, so they were all worthy candidates, but Baez was robbed of inclusion as a Gold Glove finalist.

For more on infield OAA, read Mike Petriello's fantastic write-up at MLB.com, but essentially it boils down to how many batted balls Baez turned into outs — including on plays he should not have made. That means either by virtue of his exceptional range, arm strength or break on the ball. The metric also takes into account the baserunner's speed on a given play or where the defender was located in the field, so it factors in all the outs Baez has converted from the outfield grass, either on the left or right side of the infield while serving as the rover on shifts for the Cubs.

At the end of the day, this is just a fancy number to confirm what Cubs fans saw with their eyes all 2019: Baez is an elite defensive shortstop and one of the most exciting players in the game even when he's not in the batter's box or on the basepaths. 

As for the rest of the Cubs infielders, here's how the list looks in OAA:

Addison Russell: +5
David Bote: +3
Kris Bryant: +2
Anthony Rizzo: -3
Daniel Descalso: -4

As a whole, the Cubs had the fifth-best infield OAA in baseball (+20), but that was obviously buoyed by Baez's contributions. The St. Louis Cardinals ranked first in baseball (+42 OAA), with the Rockies, Astros and Angels also ahead of the Cubs.

Entering 2020, the Cubs look to expand upon that number. They won't have Russell, but currently have every other player on the list and it's unknown how much Descalso will even play given Nico Hoerner's eventual addition to the infield on a regular basis. Baez may also improve upon his overall defensive metrics, too, if he can avoid injury (remember, he missed all of September) and in his second full season at shortstop.