Cubs Headed to Arbitration Hearing with Grimm, First for Epstein and Hoyer (Updated)


In what should come as a surprise to no one, Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs have won their arbitration hearing with Justin Grimm, if it’s even fair to say such a thing. It was strange that they’d have gone to their first such hearing over a mere $275,000, but it was even more strange that Grimm would try to get more of a raise following poor performance that saw him bounce back and forth from AAA.

With this settled, the Cubs now have all their arbitration-eligible players set for 2018.

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, the Cubs will have an arbitration hearing with Justin Grimm later this week. The failure to reach an agreement on a contract figure for 2018 marks the first time that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will head to arbitration as members of the Cubs front office, which is actually pretty remarkable.

Grimm had been seeking $2.475 million and the Cubs countered with $2.2 million, so this first-ever occurrence is taking place over a whopping $275,000. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be more than happy to earn that much for my work. It’s just that it seems like kind of a small amount to be hung up on. Then again, I guess 12.5 percent is a pretty sizable increase over the Cubs’ offer.

It’s also important to understand that these arbitration hearings are essentially trials in which the team is presenting a case for why the player does not deserve the salary he’s asking for. Even the most metrics-savvy executives will lean on those numbers they know will best sway the arbitrator to their side. The organization has to try to make their employee look as bad as possible, which really sucks when you think about it.

For as much progress as we’ve made in analyzing baseball with meaningful statistics, these arb hearings are still very much about box score numbers and popular counting stats. That’s bad enough for pitchers in general, but it’s really tough for middle relievers who have little other than holds to quantify their impact. Grimm, who has notched only four saves in the past three seasons, posted a 5.53 ERA in 2017 and saw his strikeout rate drop while walks and home runs were up.

Then you’ve got the fact that the Cubs leveraged Grimm’s options to shuffle him back and forth from Iowa over the past few seasons. While a lot of that was a product of necessity as the team played musical chairs with the roster, the heart of the matter was inconsistent performance. Put everything together and you can see how things could get nasty.

Given the structure of these hearings and the season he just had, I can’t imagine this turning out very well for Grimm. A lot of fans would probably be fine with that, and I’ll admit that I’m still surprised things have progressed this far after the tall righty’s considerable struggles. There was more than one point last year at which I was certain the Cubs were going to DFA Grimm and/or find a way to trade him.

At the same time, he seems like a really good dude from what I’ve gathered through limited interaction with him, so I’ve got a soft spot for him. And that curveball is a freakishly nasty weapon when he’s actually able to locate the fastball enough to use it.

With no options remaining and a couple of younger pitchers knocking on the door, though, Grimm’s not going to have much leeway to work through any further issues. In fact, he might not have any at all. So here’s to hoping everything clicks this year and he’s able to put it together as a viable part of the bullpen, regardless of the salary figure he’s awarded.

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