Former Cubs reliever Justin Grimm signs with the Athletics

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Justin Grimm hasn’t been what I’d consider to be an effective big league reliever since playing a key role in the Cubs bullpen during their 2016 World Series run. He spent 2017 in Chicago, as well, but wasn’t nearly as effective – and, since then, he’s made a grand total of 21 appearances at the big league level.

Knowing that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise the best he could do this winter is a minor league deal, with the Oakland Athletics picking up the 33-year-old right-hander on Tuesday. 

Grimm spent 2021 with the Mariners’ Triple-A team, but didn’t do enough to get a look with Seattle down the stretch. He made 45 appearances, finishing 20 games and working to a 4.37 ERA and 1.352 WHIP. The righty showcased his strikeout stuff, as well, averaging just under 14 punchouts per nine with the Rainers.

Since the Cubs cut ties with Grimm early in 2018, he’s bounced around – spending time with the Royals, Mariners, Indians, Dodgers and Brewers organizations, in varying capacities. His best days undoubtedly came on the North Side, where he was a key reliever as Chicago emerged from its rebuild under Theo Epstein.

Grimm came to the Cubs in the July 2013 trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas in exchange for Grimm, Mike Olt, Carl Edwards Jr. and Neil Ramirez. Funnily enough, Grimm, Edwards Jr. and Ramirez all pitched for Chicago in that historic 2016 campaign. Olt never did pan out, failing to live up to his former billing as a top prospect in the game.

Chicago Cubs: Justin Grimm quickly became a key piece of the bullpen puzzle

For his part, Grimm quickly endeared himself to manager Rick Renteria, becoming a go-to guy for the 2014 Cubs. He made a team-high 73 appearances, working to a 3.20 FIP across 69 innings of work. His standing didn’t change when new manager Joe Maddon came to town the following year, evidenced by a breakout showing from the right-hander.

That season, he put up a career-best 1.99 ERA to go along with 12.1 K/9, another personal best. Of course, some of his most memorable moments came in 2016. While he wasn’t as effective during the regular season, he came up with big outs in October – none bigger than his inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in Game 3 of the Fall Classic.

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That’s easily the one moment we’ll always remember from Grimm’s time in Chicago. Here’s to hoping he can figure some things out and carve out a role in Oakland in 2022. He’s always had the swing-and-miss stuff; it’s just a matter of limiting the walks and long balls.