Chicago Cubs: Justin Grimm and obsolescence by design

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

“Bullpen workhorse” is both a compliment and death sentence for pitchers like former Chicago Cubs reliever Justin Grimm. But don’t expect the revolving door of burned-out young arms to end soon.

The Chicago Cubs meticulously manage innings and pitch counts of their high-investment starting pitchers. But with fewer starters league-wide throwing 200 innings, bullpens must cover a continually increasing workload. The result: shorter careers for max-throwing non-closers.

Such was the fate of recently released Justin Grimm. Drafted as a starter in 2010 by the Texas Rangers, Grimm struggled in the minors to average five innings per start. Converted to a max-throwing reliever, he unfortunately lacked the consistency to close, sealing his likely fate as a short-career workhorse reliever.

This was no surprise for Grimm. Longevity and high career earnings belong to effective starters and elite closers. All pro pitchers and their agents know this.

For hurlers of major-league ability, it’s generally less taxing to throw 160-180 innings as a starter than make 60 to 70 irregularly spaced relief appearances. Thus a team feels good to get three or four such seasons out of a reliever, and then onto the next young arm.