May 2: The move is official. The Cubs have reinstated Russell to the 40-man roster and optioned him to Triple-A. Injured closer Brandon Morrow, who was recently shut down from throwing for at least two weeks following an injection, was moved from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list to open a 40-man spot for Russell.
April 30: The Cubs will option infielder Addison Russell to Triple-A Iowa when he is activated from the restricted list Thursday, the team revealed to reporters (Twitter link via Gordon Wittenymyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). He’s yet to play in the Majors in 2019 due to a 40-game suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy (which was issued back in September).
Russell will split time between shortstop and second base in Iowa, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He’s previously served as Chicago’s primary shortstop in large part because of his defensive abilities — Russell has just a career .242/.313/.392 line at the plate and tallied a career-low five homers in 2018 — but Javier Baez has thrived both offensively and defensively in that spot this season. Offseason signee Daniel Descalso has seen the lion’s share of playing time at second base so far in 2019 and posted an overall .268/.358/.380 in 81 trips to the plate. David Bote and Ben Zobrist, too, have chipped in at second base in the season’s early stages, though Zobrist has yet to replicate last year’s production.
The 25-year-old Russell won’t accrue service time on his optional assignment, of course, and it’s not clear when he’ll return to the Majors. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein suggested that the time in Triple-A will serve as a means of allowing Russell to get up to speed after the early downtime, which could point to several weeks in the minors for Russell. He’s already played six games with Iowa, as league policy allows players to begin an unpaid minor league assignment toward the end of their suspensions.
One would imagine that once the organization decides to bring Russell back to the MLB level, he could supplant outfielder Mark Zagunis on the active roster, though the overall health of the roster at that point will obviously dictate the corresponding move to facilitate Russell’s return.