Cubs Re-Sign John Grabow: Bullpen Issues Will Go Unresolved

Matt TruebloodSenior Analyst INovember 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 23:  Relief pitcher John Grabow #43 of the Chicago Cubs reacts as he walks back to the dugout in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 23, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Cubs defeated the Dodgers 3-1.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

John Grabow can laugh his way to the bank.

Cubs-contract-19.article" title="Gordon Wittenmeyer story" target="_blank">According to the Chicago Sun-Times , Grabow and the Cubs have agreed on a two-year contract extension worth at least $7 million dollars, and Grabow is considered an option to take over the closer's role if Carlos Marmol's control issues cannot resolve themselves.

As I made clear weeks ago , I will not abide this decision. It apportions no less than $3.5 million dollars for next season to a well below-average reliever, on a club that has little remaining budgetary space within which to operate.

Not only does it fill the bullpen with one more ineffective left-hander (if we need those so badly, Sean Marshall deserved the extension in lieu of Grabow), but if Wittenmeyer's report of the organization's intentions reflects reality, this signals the end of any search for a more reliable power arm at the back end of Chicago's bullpen, a badly-needed missing element of the 2009 team.

Grabow walks more batters than is ever acceptable for a situational reliever, and situational reliever he is: in 2009, right-handed batters fared 20 percent better against him than did lefties. He also allows hits at a rate that simply does not match his new level of compensation as a top-tier back-end bullpen guy.

Worst of all, though, the market for closers this winter is teeming with intriguing options that the Cubs will now have no chance to even explore. Jose Valverde (twice the NL leader in saves), Rafael Soriano (career strikeout-to-walk rate north of 3.5), Fernando Rodney (Detroit's ground-ball maven) and southpaw Billy Wagner all are available, yet Hendry did not even wait for the end of the exclusivity period prior to true free agency to re-sign Grabow at a lucrative rate.

For the same price, the Cubs could have inquired about John Smoltz as a middle reliever; Scott Downs, as a left-handed specialist; or Kiko Calero, coming off a solid walk year with the Marlins.

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In the trade market, Cincinnati is desperately trying to move Francisco Cordero, a three-time All-Star. Cleveland wants to find a taker for former Cub and fan favorite Kerry Wood; and Oakland's over-abundance of bullpen aces will have Billy Beane fielding offers from across the league.

Instead, Hendry solidified Marmol's hold on the job, and at the same time weakened the support Marmol can expect from his set-up corps, by bringing back one of the three horsemen of the Cubs' 2009 bullpen apocalypse. One can only hope now that the other two (Kevin Gregg and Aaron Heilman) won't also suddenly return to the teams' radar, and that Hendry can at least acquire another starting pitcher who can take pressure off of what will now certainly be another mediocre crew of firemen in 2010.