The Cubs decided yesterday to place infielder Addison Russell on the 7-day concussion injured list, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. By doing so, the organization will avoid paying Russell a $100K roster bonus.
As Wittenmyer explains, this outwardly innocuous move makes for a complicated situation from a variety of perspectives. It’s even possible that it could ultimately lead to a grievance, he suggests, though it’s not clear whether that has specifically been contemplated.
With rosters expanded in September, the use of the injured list changes significantly. The 60-day IL remains relevant because it allows teams to open a 40-man roster spot. But the only real reason to use the 10-day or 7-day concussion lists is to make a recently optioned player eligible for an earlier recall.
In this case, the Cubs have nothing to gain beyond avoiding Russell’s next roster bonus. His arbitration contract includes a $4.3MM salary and $100K bonuses at 30, 60, 90, and 120 days on the active roster (plus $200K for 150, which he cannot meet).
The club issued an explanation centered upon respect for the concussion protocol. But as Wittenmyer explains, that wouldn’t seem to mandate this official roster move. While this brand of penny pinching at the expense of an employee isn’t generally justifiable, this contract was negotiated under unusual circumstances. Russell served the bulk of a 40-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy at the start of the 2019 campaign.
There isn’t any indication at this point of tension between team and player. But it’s tempting to wonder whether this hints at things to come. Even if Russell returns to action late this year and/or in the postseason, which remains to be seen, the Chicago organization could well be preparing to part ways at season’s end.
The Cubs already made the widely questioned decision to hang onto Russell despite the shameful circumstances of his suspension. He has been a significant part of this year’s team, spending time on optional assignment but also appearing in 76 MLB games. The Cubs control Russell’s rights for two more seasons and likely wouldn’t owe him a huge raise on his existing base salary. But he has not overcome his offensive struggles, turning in a .227/.303/.389 batting line in 229 plate appearances, so it’s amply possible that the club will simply determine that it’s time to move on from a pure baseball perspective.