Chicago Cubs: Adding Eddie Butler to the mix could propel pitching staff

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Right-hander Eddie Butler seems likely to make the Chicago Cubs big league roster – a move that could lighten the load on fellow relievers this year.

After the Chicago Cubs released reliever Justin Grimm Thursday, a door opened for right-hander Eddie Butler. Given he’s out of Minor League options, he seems the likely candidate to assume Grimm’s spot on the big league pitching staff. This move could end up paying big dividends in multiple ways.

First, to touch on the Grimm move. By releasing him, the Cubs saved around $2 million in payroll this year. That added flexibility is certainly nice heading into the season. Given his woeful 2017 campaign and struggles this spring, it’s hard to call this move unexpected in any way, shape or form.

Meanwhile, Butler comes off a 2017 season in which he split time between Chicago and Triple-A Iowa. With the I-Cubs, he pitched to a 2.17 ERA in eight starts. Walks were again an issue, as he issued free passes to just under six batters per nine innings pitched.

With the Major League team, Butler served in a role similar to Mike Montgomery – splitting time between the pen and the rotation. All told, he pitched to a 3.95 ERA, which may have been more luck than execution given he walked 28 batters and struck out 30 in 54 2/3 innings of work.

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Control issues the main concern

The stuff is certainly there. But hitting his spots will be key. That trend seems to emanate throughout the Chicago bullpen, hence the addition of new pitching coach Jim Hickey. Cutting down on free passes will be critical to the Cubs’ success in 2018.

Speaking of Montgomery, having Butler in the mix could, in theory, lessen the back-and-forth for the southpaw. This winter, he spoke of his concerns regarding bouncing between starting and relieving, which raised questions as to whether or not the Cubs would allow him the chance to start.

Of course, after that, Chicago added Yu Darvish, designating Montgomery to the exact same role he held last year – swingman. But with Butler onboard, he could conceivably fill that role, allowing Monty to become more of a long reliever.

That could help Montgomery be more content in his role with the team, while also adding a depth piece to the staff. Should Joe Maddon want to give a starter an extra day’s rest, Butler can slot into the rotation and take the ball – as he did 11 times last year.

Releasing Grimm made too much sense for it not to happen. It saved the team money, allows them to keep Butler (who otherwise would have been exposed to waivers) and see if he can capture some of the magic that made him a first-rounder back in 2012.

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And, maybe – just maybe – it will allow Mike Montgomery to blossom as a true long-man in the Chicago Cubs bullpen.