Grabow Deal Near Completion
Bruce Levine is reporting that a deal with John Grabow should be completed today for two years and nearly 7.5 million. I had expressed my indifference in the past over resigning Grabow. Oh sure, his ERA has been pretty good the last two years, but with a BB/9 rate near 5 last year and 4.15 for his career, I don't think anyone would really miss him if he got away. I was asked in the comments yesterday how I'd handle this situation and here was my response.
I offer Grabow arbitration and wait to see if he takes it...chances are
he will because a team doesn't want to give up a draft pick for a
set-up man(ed. note - Grabow is classified as a Type A free agent). That'll cost the Cubs probably an extra $1M this year, but
if Ricketts is serious about propping the farm system, he'll roll the
dice(ed. note - when I say Ricketts, I mean they'll offer to cover Hendry's budget if Grabow wins a big arbitration case). Maybe the Cubs get lucky and a team with a protected pick signs
him or one that signed a few other FA's and the Cubs score some extra
draft picks. If he does sign with another team, I wait until February
when inevitably some lefties will still be around and sign one or two
on the cheap. I imagine you can find a few on the trade market for Jake
Fox who will likely be traded, since he's out of options and in Lou's
In general, I could care less if the Cubs have even one lefty in
their pen. It's a stupid unnecessary crutch for a manager so he can
make safe moves that the media won't blast him on. The Angels did
plenty good for awhile with their pen with no lefties (before Oliver
and Fuentes). Better off finding good relievers that can get guys from
both sides of the plate and you'll trust for an inning or longer. Cubs
had a great LOOGY in Ohman and couldn't figure out to use him.1
And I don't mind Grabow, he can get guys from both sides of the
plate, I just think's just slightly above average and I'm also not sure
Lou will use him properly, which is a full inning at a time, rather
than a match-up lefty.
Now when I wrote that, I figured Grabow could get anywhere from $4-$5M in arbitration case due to the 2.84 and 3.36 ERA's the last two years, near the top in holds, a handful of saves and Type A free agent classification. That would be a hefty raise from the $2.3M he made in 2008.
But I looked a little further at contracts signed by set-up men and relievers last year and I probably guessed a little high.
Jeremy Affeldt - 2 years/$8M total
Juan Cruz - 2 years/$6M total (there's a $4M 2011 option or $500K buyout, so $6.5M guaranteed)
Kyle Farnsworth - 2 years/$8.75M (there's a $5.25M 2011 option or $500K buyout, so $9.25M guaranteed plus incentives that could earn him more)2
Joe Beimel - 1 year/$2M
Will Ohman - 1 year/$1.35M
Latroy Hawkins - 1 year/$3.5M
I think Affeldt might be the best comp for Grabow, coming off two good seasons before 2009 and in his first year of free agency and both pitchers don't show much of a disparity between getting righties or lefties out. So at the high end, we could expect Grabow to maybe get $4M in arbitration.
Considering that assumption and considering that relievers tend to be rather volatile from year-to-year, it would seem like a good idea to not tie yourself up to a multi-year offer if you don't have to unless you feel you're getting a pretty good discount or certain that Grabow could deliver two good seasons in a row. Now we don't know the contract specifics quite yet, but at an average of $3.75M per year, Hendry looks to be paying the top of the scale and doing it for two years now, when he probably could have gotten away with just one by offering arbitration. Now maybe the deal will be one of Hendry's famous back-loaded deals as the Cubs have money coming off the books next year, but I fail to see how the Cubs aren't doing anything but paying at the top of payscale range here for Grabow's services.
So then can the Cubs safely assume that he'll continue to pitch well the next two years? Well I certainly don't think you can assume that at all. His career ERA is 4.05 and his career FIP is 4.18 including 4.54 in 2008 and 4.20 in 2009 amidst the two seasons that will have earned him this new deal. That doesn't instill a lot of confidence in me that he can repeat what he's been doing, although that's not to say that he won't. It just indicates to me that Grabow is probably nothing special amongst his fraternity of relievers and not someone that warranted a multi-year deal. And when you have a player that isn't particularly special and have the opportunity to sign him to a one-year deal instead of two, I think you take that opportunity. Of course, the Cubs could have lost Grabow to free agency, but the potential of getting two extra draft picks is worth that risk.
1 - speaking of my left-handed bullpen crutch rant, this was Grabow's 2007 entry in Baseball Prospectus which I found on his PECOTA page. Now Grabow isn't what many would consider a LOOGY, but getting lefties out will be very much one of his primary roles on the team.
You can make a strong argument that no team needs a LOOGY. Mike
Scioscia won 92 games and a division title in 2004 without having a
lefty reliever on his team. LOOGies do more harm than good because they
end up facing just as many righties than lefties as a result of walks
and pinch-hitters, and take up precious roster space without providing
2 - Points and laughs at Royals