The Cubs have released right-handed reliever Justin Grimm, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago (Twitter link). Grimm had previously lost an arbitration hearing against the Cubs, resulting in a $2.2MM salary for the upcoming season. However, since arb contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, the Cubs can cut him and owe him 45 days of termination pay based on the pro-rated portion of that base salary — a sum of about $541K.
Grimm, 29, struggled to a 5.53 ERA through 55 1/3 regular-season innings last year, due largely to a drastic spike in his home run rate. After averaging just 0.7 HR/9 with the Cubs from 2014-16, Grimm yielded an average of 1.95 homer per nine innings last season. This spring, he’s allowed a pair of homers and walked four in four innings with the Cubs.
Outside of the problem with the long ball, though, Grimm’s numbers weren’t entirely unappealing. He still averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball and posted a strong 9.6 K/9 mark with a slightly below-average 43.1 percent ground-ball rate. His average of 4.4 walks per nine innings pitched was a step backward from his 2016 numbers but an improvement from the 2015 season.
Overall, Grimm has been a largely durable source of strikeouts with questionable control as a member of the Cubs’ middle relief contingent, dating back to the 2013 season when Chicago acquired him from Texas in the Matt Garza swap. An infection in his finger cost him a period of 10 days this past August, and his lone other DL stint was a month-long absence for forearm inflammation early on in 2015.
Subtracting Grimm, who was out of minor league options, from the bullpen mix could pave the way for fellow out-of-options right-hander Eddie Butler to make the club. The 27-year-old Butler posted better bottom-line numbers last year (3.95 ERA in 54 2/3 innings), though he did so with an ugly 30-to-28 K/BB ratio. He’s had a much sharper spring thus far, however, and his prior work as a starter could make him better-suited for multi-inning relief appearances.