Every year, we note this with respect to guys who were borderline non-tenders, and sometimes it comes to pass: arbitration-level contracts are not fully guaranteed, so all that is risked by tendering those borderline guys is (1) a 40-man spot for the winter, and (2) 30 or 45 days termination pay.
One of those guys back in December was reliever Justin Grimm, who seemed to really lose his command last year, and came into this season with an uncertain hold, at best, on the final spot in the Cubs’ bullpen. After losing his arbitration case to the Cubs, we noted that – if he didn’t perform well in Spring Training – the Cubs could release him with only termination pay.
The implications of Grimm being out are several:
- The Cubs save a little under $2 million in 2018 salary, which can now be used for in-season moves or – strictly speaking – a shocking late-Spring signing. At present, the Cubs have about $12 million in flexibility under the luxury tax cap, so now that bumps up to closer to $14 million. But when accounting for roster churn during the season (i.e., call-ups who go from minor league salaries to pro-rated Major League minimum) and bonuses accumulated, that’s probably more like $10 or $11 million. Plenty for in-season additions, debatably still not enough to go out and sign, for example, Greg Holland to a steal of a one-year deal.
- The 8th reliever spot continues to be up for grabs. Among the guys realistically in the mix: Eddie Butler (he’s out of options), Dillon Maples (has options), Randy Rosario (has options), Shae Simmons (has options), Anthony Bass (in on minor league deal), Alberto Baldonado (in on minor league deal), Michael Roth (in on minor league deal), and Kyle Ryan (in on minor league deal).
- My guess is the Cubs will use this as an opportunity to hang onto Butler for a little bit longer, since he’s likely to be claimed by a rebuilding club if he were subjected to waivers. Butler could be used in a swing role similar to Mike Montgomery, allowing a little protection for Montgomery from having to be shuttled around too much, and also giving Butler an opportunity to show what he could do in shorter bursts. With him, though, the command issues are the thing. He’s got the velocity and the stuff.
- If Pedro Strop, who hasn’t yet pitched in Spring Training, starts the year on the DL, there are actually two available spots.
- Grimm will undoubtedly latch on with another club and try to win a big league job, though it may take some time in the minor leagues to get there. Best of luck to him – when he was on, the guy had some of the nastiest stuff in the organization.
UPDATE: Just a confirmation and a well-wish from the Cubs:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 15, 2018