Grimm Choice or Help Wanted? (or What Lame Pun Do I Get to Make Through April?)

This has been described as a low drama spring for the Cubs. The roster has been virtually set since the Yu Darvish signing in mid February. The only real questions were who would be the back up catcher, and who would be given the prestigous role of 13th pitcher in Joe Maddon's staff. The decisions made at the end of March are rarely the final calls for the pitching staff, but the Cubs face a dilemma with Justin Grimm and Eddie Butler both out of options.

The assumption has been that Justin Grimm has the inside track. In fact, there is no discussion of the roster spot being in jeopardy according to Carrie Muskat's predictions for the 25 man roster.  Grimm is simply listed as being on the list with lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing rounding out the rotation. The reliever has flashed periods of brilliance, but those moments have come farther and farther in between. Grimm's ability to be a high leverage reliever meant that Grimm would be given every chance to succeed in the role.

Grimm has shown up in spring and done nothing to make it an easy conclusion. The Cubs were hoping that a return of Grimm Reaper form would be there and making the conversation moot. Instead Grimm has shown the same inconsistencies that have plagued him the past couple of seasons. It is just spring training, and it is only four appearances. But Grimm has given up 4 runs in 4 innings walking 4 and given up 2 home runs.

Eddie Butler entered the year in a similar position as Grimm without the track record. Butler has been more anticipation than above average pitcher. His mid nineties fastball always has teams interested, but he has struggled to develop an above average secondary offering to put away hitters. He has worked as a reliever, but the results were as mixed in the bullpen. His walk rate dropped substantial in the 21.1  innings of work from 10.4% to 6.9%. The strike out rate jumped slightly from 12.1% to 17.7%. The home run rate rose slightly as well from 1.31 to 1.69.

The assumption was that Eddie Butler and the dream of Eddie Butler would be shipped off. Butler would have to clear through waivers to make, and guys that can throw 95 making the league minimum are something most teams are eager to grab. It may start a round of DFA roulette to try to get him into AAA, but the end result would be Eddie Butler moving on.

The Cubs built up a small supply of arms in AAA. Dario Alvarez was signed to be a left handed option. Dillon Maples has stuff that some have described as other worldly. Neither has given a reason to not stash in AAA to start the season. Shae Simmons just officially agreed to his split contract today which means that he is unlikely to be a real threat to break camp with the big league roster. The dynamics of the MLB payroll rules it might mean Justin Grimm might be the easier of the two to option.

Grimm is on a non-guaranteed arbitration contract. There was some explanation given that the Cubs unusal desire to haggle over a couple hundred grand was about preserving the non-guaranteed nature of the deal. However, that isn't the case as even settlements are non-guaranteed or else Corey Dickerson's DFA made even less sense by the Rays.

Still it remains that the Cubs have a variety of options when it comes to Justin Grimm. Players cut a player on a non-guaranteed contract the amount of termination pay received depends on when he is cut. 15 days before the start of the season is the point, and that has been passed at this point in time. The amount of difference is a matter of six figures or pennies for a baseball organization. The contract becomes guaranteed if he starts on the 25 man roster.

The Cubs could also try to option Grimm. The odds of another team claiming a struggling reliever go down with any salary. Grimm's $2.2 million price tag is likely to keep teams from claiming him. Now Grimm has enough service time to refuse the assignment and elect free agency. If he did that he would forfeit what the Cubs owed him. Instead he can collect his $2.2 million by reporting to Iowa. Sending Grimm down presents the highest odds of having both Grimm and Butler in the organization on March 28.

This is a decision that will be based on performance and how players look. Justin Grimm still probably has the inside track despite the shaky outings. There is still a couple of weeks for Grimm to grab a hold of that spot, but if the trends of the spring continue the question has to be raised if the Cubs might not be better served by gambling that Eddie Butler figured something out.


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  • I'll take Grimm over Butler any day.

  • In reply to jamespk:

    Same here. Grimm has had some very solid stretches out of the pen over the years. Admittedly I like the 'idea' of Butler as he's got some potential as an emergency SP - but the reality of Butler has been somewhat underwhelming.

  • Butler is the more valuable of the 2, whether it’s trade or staying on the roster. He can spot start if Monty was used in relief previous day or can pitch out of the pen in long relief. We know what we have in Grimm & it’s mop up duty at best.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Butler has little trade value. Are you even sure Butler is mop up duty level? At least Grimm has had success in the majors.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    No success recently... unless you call throwing gasoline on a fire success.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Pretty sure Theo n Jed are sure. ;o)

  • Baseball nerd and legal jargon alert, but yes, this is why we went to an arbitrator with Grimm. The contract isn't guaranteed, but will be easier to possibly pass through waivers.

    I'd personally love to have an effective Grimm out of the pen just to make references to "more cowbell", but I soon realize the Cubs win total is more important.

    Both Grimm and Butler will soon be gone. We will do some roster gymnastics but the truth is they will both be soon surpassed by superior arms. I wish them both well.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    You are right that neither is with the Cubs long term. Hard to get worked up about losing the 13th guy in the bullpen.

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    If Grimm doesn't make the roster I would like to see either Butler or Maples given a shot. Shae Simmons is also an interesting candidate. This year the Cubs have more talented choices than any other time I can remember. That bodes well for this year.

  • Way, way of of Cubs or even baseball topic here, but something I want to share. Stephen Hawking just passed away. I won't even try to post any lyrics to commemorate this news, because I would fall woefully short. The human race just got a hole lot stupider.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't like to go off topic here, but I too want to pay my respects to Stephen Hawking. What a great mind, and he didn't let a little thing like losing almost all of his physical facilities get in the way of his achievements. For all his wisdom he had a sense of humor also--if you ever caught him on The Big Bang Theory knows that. I have a brother who is an astro-physicist and we would talk about space and he would at times try to explain some of Hawking's theories to me, ha! Thanks for bringing it up BP.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    BP, please know I have a lot of respect for you, but, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the last sentence in your post above made me smile.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    The human race will always do stupid and has always done stupid with or without Stephen. We are flawed. It's just a reality.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Couldn't have said it better.

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    I just commented on Stephen Hawking but it was delayed. Any help is appreciated.

  • Tyler Chatwood > Stephen Hawking

  • The fact that we are debating Grimm vs. Butler makes me smile. Shows the depth and talent of this team.

    It is on Grimm. He knows he needs to impress to go north with the team and so far he hasn’t. I am all for stashing him in Iowa, paying him $2.2 MM and see if he can get things squared away. Keep Butler pitching every 5 days and ready to go in case of emergency.

  • Speaking of pitching, I loved this tweet from a Giants fan last night on Tyler Chatwood, who was awesome last night: “The Cubs fifth starter is better than most team’s third.”

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Chatwood looks like he will be a good pick up. :-)

  • I can’t understand how anybody wants Grimm around anymore. The guy is toast and is showing it this spring.

    He is the rare reliever that spent most of the year in the bigs with a bad ERA who can’t blame that bad ERA on a few select outings. He would consistently give up runs.

    I know we’re debating the 8th reliever, but come on! They have to give Butler a shot.

  • I would prefer to keep Butler and hope that Grimm makes it through to Iowa.

    If he does, however, I would recommend a different tack to take. Grimm has the repertoire of a starter, but has lacked the command to make them effective. At this point, I doubt that he will ever gain consistent command if his career continues as it has. I would like, if he makes it to Iowa, to change him into a starter. Sometimes a traumatic change causes an increase in concentration, and perhaps just a different mental outlook. Mostly, it has worked for the transition from starter to reliever, but it has also worked the other way. Dempster went from a good reliever to an even better starter, and credited the increase in command to regularly scheduled usage. Perhaps the same could apply to Grimm.

    Granted, I will be the first to admit that there is currently no place on the Cubs staff as a starter. But pitching staffs are prone to injuries, and you never know when a slot would open up. But more importantly, success in the minors as a starter would cause Grimm's trade value to soar, which could only be good for the Cubs.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Idk, was he not moved to the pen because he was a pitch short of a starters repertoire?

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Justin Grimm came up as a starter in the Texas Minor League system and made 19 starts for the Rangers in 2012 and 2013 before being traded to the Cubs.

  • A couple of years ago there was talk about making him a starting pitcher because of his repertoire, but they felt that he was more valuable in relief. I doubt that they still feel that he has a great future as a set up man. Why not give him one last chance to improve his value?

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