On Thursday afternoon Jesse Rogers broke the news that the Cubs released Justin Grimm. After losing his arbitration case this winter, Grimm followed up an ugly 2017 campaign with uninspiring results in his limited spring training appearances. Stats in the spring always come with a grain of salt, of course, but that Grimm continued to show control issues (four walks in just four IP) certainly didn’t help his cause.
Grimm’s best year was in 2015, and while he has struggled with his control mightily since he still boasts fantastic velocity (94.9 mph last year) to complement a devastating curveball. There’s no doubt he’ll have an opportunity to revitalize his career with another club, so let’s wish him the best. Also, it’s a fitting time to remember his iconic moment in the World Series:
As the Cubs part ways with Justin Grimm, we should never forget that moment during the 2016 World Series where he got of a bases loaded jam with a double play during a tied game. Wrigley Field was electric.
— Cubs Live (@Cubs_Live) March 15, 2018
What this move means
The move allows the Cubs to save ~$2 million, creating a bit more financial flexibility for mid-season trades without crossing over the luxury tax threshold. While I don’t foresee this creating a last-minute bid for Greg Holland, this off-season has been full of quirks, so anything is possible.
The eighth spot in the bullpen is now open for the taking, though don’t be surprised if that honor goes to Eddie Butler. Another player out of options, Butler has thrown pretty well this spring, surrendering just two runs in 6 2/3 IP. Most importantly he’s only walked two batters, and as another player that has dealt with control issues, this is an encouraging sign. Earlier in the off-season, I lobbied for Dillon Maples to get the final bullpen slot (prognosticating that Grimm would be cut) but his spring could best be described as ugly, and he can be stashed at AAA to work on his control. Butler, of course, also has starting experience (he performed competently-but-shaky in a limited cameo last year) that could also be of value.
Ian Happ is ready
One of the better storylines this spring has been the further development of Ian Happ. Without any significant drama concerning position battles, this spring has served as a bit of an audition for the leadoff spot for several guys, and Happ has certainly been the most impressive. Happ has crushed five home runs, has looked good in center field, and is hitting a cartoonish 1.556 OPS.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday he exuded a quiet, relaxed confidence regarding his performance. “Feeling comfortable swinging the bat, seeing the ball well, and just having a lot of quality at-bats,” Ian expressed. “Feeling comfortable in center field too, so that’s a big part of it.”
Happ is also clearly in line with the clubhouse culture and embracing the target: “It’s just great that we’re coming out with a chance to win every day. [The front office is] putting a product on the field that has a chance to win a lot of baseball games and that’s what makes this thing fun.”
And concerning his role, he provided the perfect team-oriented response. “Anything the team needs. I think that’s how we all operate. Wherever Joe [Maddon] puts you in the lineup, wherever he puts you in the field, you’re going to do your best to help the team win that day.”
With Albert Almora struggling at the plate it appears Happ will have an opportunity to prove himself in the leadoff hole. His switch-hitting capability and defensive versatility will give Maddon considerable flexibility to mix and match, and while Almora will still likely see some looks in the leadoff spot against lefties, expect Happ to have a chance to stake his claim as the season unfolds.
We’re just over two weeks from Opening Day, folks. Get excited.