Infamous for making a five-player blockbuster trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks the night before Thanksgiving in 2016, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto joked Monday that he wouldn’t interrupt the holiday fun this year with a deal.
But he also hinted that the Mariners would finalize the signings of two free-agent pitchers in the days leading up to it. The first came Tuesday morning, when the Mariners announced that Dipoto had inked right-hander Kendall Graveman to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with a $3.5 million club option in 2021 and a $500,000 buyout. There also are incentives that could add another $1.5 million.
Graveman, who turns 29 on Dec. 21, spent last season in the Cubs organization, rehabbing and recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made two minor-league rehab appearances, pitching three innings in each.
“Kendall is a great bounce-back candidate,” Dipoto said in a statement. “His makeup is off the charts, and we’ve done a fair bit of homework on him from his time in Oakland and more recently in Chicago. He was a workhorse, ground-ball-oriented pitcher, with whom we saw a velocity spike prior to his Tommy John surgery.”
Now over a year removed from the surgery, Graveman is healthy and ready to return to a normal throwing schedule.
“The elbow is feeling great,” he said. “I felt the ball was coming out very well. And believe having this offseason, the rest is going to come. I was 13 months off of surgery when I was pitching in the minor leagues. At that time, it was good, but I think having the offseason and coming back for a full spring, it will be even better. I started picking up a baseball and doing some light tossing, and everything is going great now.”
He spent the bulk of his career with the Oakland A’s, posting a 23-29 record and 4.38 ERA in 78 starts over parts of five seasons. Graveman was Oakland’s opening-day starter in 2018 and made seven starts before elbow issues led to season-ending surgery on July 24, 2018. He signed a one-year contract with the Cubs before last season. But Chicago decided not to exercise a $3 million club option for this season.
“We really trust him and his ability to consistently throw strikes,” Dipoto said. “At 28 years old, he has the ability to stay in our system for a period of time and gives us something to look forward to.”
If healthy, Graveman is expected to be a part of a Mariners rotation that features lefties Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and Justus Sheffield.
“There’s opportunity here to pitch and compete,” Graveman said. “I experienced that a little bit in Oakland. You see the team Oakland has put together now. We were a bunch of young guys a few years ago, and I have the same feeling with Seattle.”
The Mariners’ second signing is also expected to be another free-agent pitcher, likely a reliever, similar to Graveman in terms of salary, short-term commitment with high-upside possibility. That deal would be finalized Wednesday morning, pending a physical.