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Report: Cubs may bring Addison Russell back

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The Cubs are weighing whether or not to bring embattled 24-year-old shortstop Addison Russell back in 2019, Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reports. Russell is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility.

Last year, a friend of Russell’s now ex-wife Melisa Reidy-Russell made allegations on an Instagram post that Addison was an abuser. Major League Baseball opened an investigation but it didn’t go anywhere as Reidy-Russell chose not to cooperate. In September, Reidy-Russell came forward with a blog post detailing years of abuse from Addison. MLB re-opened its investigation and the Cubs placed Russell on administrative leave. Ultimately, Russell agreed to serve a 40-game suspension without pay. The suspension carries over into 2019 as he will miss the first 29 games of the regular season.

Despite some progressive-sounding quotes from president of baseball operations Theo Epstein during his end-of-season press conference, the Cubs haven’t positioned themselves well on social issues like homophobia (acquiring Daniel Murphy) and domestic violence (Russell; acquiring Aroldis Chapman in 2016). Manager Joe Maddon, in fact, said he didn’t bother to read Reidy-Russell’s blog post and only eventually did so following backlash to that admission.

The Cubs are reportedly cash-strapped, suggesting that they may not get involved in the bidding for free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. The Cubs, valued by Forbes at close to $3 billion earlier this year, also recently traded pitcher Drew Smyly to the Rangers to clear some salary in order to pick up Cole Hamels‘ $20 million option for 2019. It would seem, then, that it would be a no-brainer to move on from Russell, who will almost certainly get a raise on his $3.2 million salary — MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $4.3 million in 2019. Even Russell’s on-field production has been lackluster, as he posted a meager .657 OPS across 130 games this past season.

The Cubs could be trying to salvage what little trade value Russell has left. He’s young, under team control for three more years, and is a good defender at shortstop. Other teams will cynically use Russell’s off-the-field problems in order to pick him up on the cheap, not unlike how the Astros plucked Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays. If the Cubs simply admit they will be moving on from Russell, then they will have no leverage in trade negotiations. Of course, none of this matters if the Cubs simply severed ties with Russell completely. They have until November 30 to decide whether or not to tender him a contract.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round playoff series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason.

Blue Jays players embraced on the diamond at their temporary home of Sahlen Field in Buffalo after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it.

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh, pitching around Clint Frazier‘s leadoff single by setting down the next three, including pinch-hitter Aaron Judge. The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second, his eighth.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Judge is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, manager Aaron Boone said.

BIG HIT

New York infielder D.J. LeMaheiu went 1 for 5, dropping his MLB-best average to .355. A former NL batting champ seeing his first AL title, LeMahieu is well ahead of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. The Chicago star went 0 for 4 in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, dropping his average to .338.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.