In a development that is both shocking (in the historical context) and unsurprising (in the current labor strife context), this Chicago Cubs front office – the one that previously was mostly together in Boston for ten years – is going to arbitration with a player for the first time ever.
And it’s not like it’s a huge fight:
A league source indicates the Cubs will indeed have an arbitration hearing with reliever Justin Grimm this week after the sides could not settle on a salary for 2018. Grimm is seeking $2.475 million while the Cubs countered with $2.2 million. Its the… https://t.co/t44ruOn4OB
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) February 5, 2018
The story here is probably much less about the hearing with Grimm (the disparity in filing isn’t huge, and he’s not a lock to make the bullpen as is), and much more about the fact that it’s come to this between players and front offices that historically have no issue settling arbitration cases before a hearing.
You could speculate that some players have decided they were going to go to arbitration no matter what as part of the current climate. Or, there were also whispers that a huge volume of teams were switching to file-and-trial (i.e., if no settlement before the exchange of salary figures back in January, the case is going to arbitration), so it’s possible we’re seeing some of that, too. Are the Cubs now a trial-and-file team? This is – to me – very interesting stuff, and I expect we’ll learn more as the hearing goes off.
Where possible, it’s optimal to avoid these hearings, since you literally have to argue against the salary your own player is requesting, and it can sometimes generate ill-will and hard feelings. It’s been great that, so far, the Cubs have been able to avoid them. Presumably, everyone will be able to be a professional about this one.
As for Grimm, himself, he’ll be competing for a bullpen job in a crowded group after a disappointing 2017 season. When Grimm is right, his stuff is as nasty as any reliever the Cubs have available. But when he’s wrong, as we have seen, he isn’t too much help out there in the bullpen.
Keep in mind, arbitration-level contracts are not fully guaranteed until Spring Training is over. If the player is released before then, he receives only termination pay (30 or 45 days worth, depending on when he’s released). So the Cubs are on the hook here for only about $300,000 to $400,000 if they decide Grimm is not going to make the roster.
On a happier note, read about how Jose Quintana dominated with the Cubs last year, and why it looks like he could do it again this year.