It is officially the MLB Off-Season. Players on expiring contracts are officially free agents and are free to sign beginning on Monday. This will lead to a lot of house cleaning for teams in the next five days. The Mariners got off to a quick start on Wednesday.
Nobody is shocked that Dee Strange-Gordon had his option declined. Sad? Sure. But there was absolutely no chance that the Mariners were going to bring back Dee for $14 million. On the field, he was simply awful. And while he brings fantastic leadership and was a vocal voice in a young clubhouse, it just wasn’t financially responsible (or fair to Dee) to keep him on as a glorified cheerleader. We’ll have to wait and see how the market treats him, but somebody will likely take a chance on him.
Now, let’s talk about the “real” decision the Mariners made on Wednesday: not picking up the option on RHP Kendall Graveman. After missing a month of the 2020 season with a benign tumor on his spine, Graveman shifted to the bullpen and was fairly adequate in that position. His fastball velocity jumped in the upper-90s and he even touched 100 MPH a few times. But the secondary pitches didn’t get any sharper and paying $3.5 million to a first-year middle-reliever was going to be a tough pill to swallow.
Reports have already flooded Mariners’ social media that the team is still interested in bringing in Graveman on a smaller deal and there is a decent chance that can be accomplished. It is worth noting that Graveman is still technically under club control and could be treated as an Arb-3 player. Whether or not the Mariners go this route remains to be seen.
Graveman was significantly better as a reliever in 2020, but we are talking about a microscopic sample size of 10 innings. But in those 10 innings, batters hit just .182/.243/.273 and Graveman collected a 0.900 WHIP. However, his 3.60 ERA and 4.50 K/9 leave a lot to be desired. The hope has to be with an entire off-season to acclimate to pitching in the bullpen, the career starter can either improve his stuff by speeding up his delivery or ditching one or two of his pitches, or an improved gameplan that allows him to generate more swings and misses.
And for $3.5 million, the Mariners can go find a guy that already exists. Graveman can absolutely make sense for the team in 2021. It just wasn’t going to be at that price tag. We’ll have to wait and see if Seattle and Graveman can come to a middle ground, but if not, Graveman’s presence could be missed.