Addison Russell signs with KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes

Addison Russell, the exiled former starting shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, has found a new home in South Korea.

Russell, 26, has agreed to a one-year, $530,000 deal with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. He’ll be joining a club that already includes former Major Leaguers Taylor Motter, Jake Brigham, and Eric Jokisch. Kiwoom is currently 22-17 and in fourth place in the KBO.

The move completes a stunning downfall for the former NL All-Star starter. Russell was a key member of the Cubs lineup that brought a World Series championship to Chicago’s North Side for the first time in 108 years. His Grand Slam in the third inning of Game 6 helped the Cubs extend the series to a seventh game against the Cleveland Indians.

Russell finished that season with 21 home runs, 95 RBI, and a .738 OPS. He was also a star in the field, ranking third among shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved and fifth in defensive WAR. He was just 22 years old and appeared to be the Cubs shortstop of the future.

But his career has steadily trended downward since then. In 130 games in 2018, he hit just five home runs and drove in 38. Off the field, the league began investigating charges of domestic violence involving his ex-wife.

He was eventually suspended for 40 games in October and didn’t return to the Majors until May 2019. He appeared in just 82 games last season, hitting nine home runs with a career-low 23 RBI and a .237 AVG. He was sent to the minors on July 24 and had his contract non-tendered in December.

Joining Kiwoom allows Russell to get a fresh start to his career and work his way back to the Majors. But some fans still haven’t offered forgiveness for his domestic violence allegations; they’re not happy that a known abuser is still getting paid to play baseball.

The KBO has managed to get back onto the field during the COVID-19 pandemic and play a full schedule. So while his former Cubs teammates argue with MLB over terms to start their season, Russell will already be playing. His former fans might not forgive him for his past transgressions, but by playing far from the public eye in Korea, he can hope they’ll forget by the time he’s ready to come back to America.

Next: MLB closing Spring Training sites over COVID-19

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