NEW YORK — Speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton and 2017 All-Stars Avisail Garcia and Jonathan Schoop became free agents Friday when they were among 43 players cut loose by teams that failed to offer 2019 contracts, but the Chicago Cubs hung onto shortstop Addison Russell despite his 40-game domestic violence suspension that extends until May.
Cubs president of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called the decision a procedural step and said it “does not represent the finish line nor rubber-stamp his future” with them.
“It does however reflect our support for him as long as he continues to make progress and demonstrates his commitment to these important issues,” Epstein added.
Russell accepted the suspension following allegations made by his ex-wife Melisa Reidy. Though Russell has denied the allegations, he apologized to Reidy and his family for “my past behavior.”
“Since accepting my suspension, I’ve had time to reflect on my past behavior and think about the next steps I need to take to grow as a person,” Russell said in a statement issued by the Cubs.
Russell said he will meet regularly with experts and counselors mandated by his treatment plan. He said he also plans to keep working with his own therapist, whom he has been seeing several times a week the past two months.
He also hopes to work with non-profit groups in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida, as well as Chicago and Arizona.
“I am just in the early stages of this process,” Russell said. “It is work that goes far beyond being a baseball player. It goes to my core values of being the best family man, partner, and teammate that I can be, and giving back to the community and the less fortunate. While there is a lot of work ahead for me to earn back the trust of the Cubs fans, my teammates, and the entire organization, it’s work that I am 110 percent committed to doing.”
Teams had a Friday evening deadline to offer contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man rosters, the last chance to in effect release salary arbitration-eligible players at no cost.
The 28-year-old Hamilton hit .236 with four homers and 29 RBIs this year for last-place Cincinnati as his stolen bases dropped to 34, and the Reds did not want to pay the raise he would get in arbitration from his $4.6 million salary. He swiped 56 bases and in 2014 and increased his total by one annually in each of the next three seasons.
Garcia was limited to 93 games last season for the White Sox because of discomfort in his right knee that led to surgery in October, and his batting average dropped from .330 to .236, too much of a decline for Chicago given the $6.7 million he won at a salary arbitration hearing last February.
Schoop spent his entire career with Baltimore before Milwaukee acquired the second baseman at the July 31 trade deadline for second baseman Jonathan Villar and a pair of prospects. Schoop hit .202 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 46 games for the Brewers, then was 0 for 8 in the postseason. He made $8.5 million.
“We looked at what was a best-educated prediction of what we could expect going forward and the potential price tag for that, then compared that to some of our internal alternatives and what is potentially available externally and we decided to go in this direction,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said. “Look, it was a bad deal, and that’s on me. We made a trade for a player we thought was going to be here for basically a year and a half, and I was wrong.”
Others set free included Baltimore third baseman Tim Beckham and catcher Caleb Joseph; Detroit catcher James McCann and pitcher Alex Wilson; Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker; Minnesota outfielder Robbie Grossman; Oakland pitchers Mike Fiers, Cory Gearrin and Kendall Graveman; New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores; Philadelphia first baseman Justin Bour; and San Francisco pitcher Hunter Strickland.
Among players who agreed to one-year contracts ahead of the deadline were Minnesota first baseman C.J. Cron, who hit 30 home runs for Tampa Bay, then was claimed off waivers. He got a $4.8 million deal.
San Francisco reached agreements with reliever Sam Dyson at $5 million and second baseman Joe Panik at $3.85 million.
Others agreeing included Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar ($4.5 million), Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Anthony Cingrani ($2.65 million), Atlanta left-hander Jonny Venters ($2.25 million) and Oakland right-hander Liam Hendriks ($2.15 million).