Were you traded by the Chicago Cubs last season? Do you understand why the Cubs did it, and bear them no ill will? Or do you at least just want to come back to Chicago? Then I’ve got great news for you: the door is open! Come back anytime!
In two trades last season, the Cubs dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s, and Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves. All four players are now back with Chicago clubs after the Cubs today signed Russell to a minor league deal.
Bruce Miles says that Russell will head to Arizona for now:
#Cubs sign LHP James Russell to minor league deal. Will go to AZ this weekend and then to Iowa
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) April 8, 2015
Russell failed to make the Braves’ bullpen this year after agreeing to a $2.45 million deal to avoid arbitration, and the Braves released him for about $600,000 in termination pay – which is all to say, his release was at least partially financially motivated.
Now 29, Russell was one of the most prolific relievers in baseball from 2010 to 2013 with the Cubs (the latter two years in particular) and posted solid numbers. From there, he posted an excellent 2.22 ERA, 2.31 FIP, and 3.48 xFIP last Summer for the Braves after the trade.
With only Phil Coke in the Cubs’ bullpen, with Felix Doubront gone, and with Tsuyoshi Wada rehabbing a leg/groin injury, it’s understandable that the Cubs would want to bring in a little more depth – and it’s a player they know well.
After Russell heads to Iowa, he’ll compete with Zac Rosscup and Joe Ortiz to be the first lefty called up if/when a need arises (Drake Britton, too, though he’s not on the 40-man like Rosscup and Ortiz). I’ve got to believe that the Cubs would prefer to have two lefties in the pen, and the only thing preventing it right now was the decision to hold onto Edwin Jackson. After that situation is clarified, my guess is the Cubs go with two lefties.