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Mariners re-sign Graveman for bullpen help

@gregjohnsmlb
October 29, 2020

SEATTLE -- A day after the Mariners declined a $3.5 million contract option for 2021 on Kendall Graveman, they re-signed the 29-year-old right-hander on Thursday. The club plans to give him an extended shot in a bullpen role next season. Graveman’s new one-year deal is for $1.25 million, with the

SEATTLE -- A day after the Mariners declined a $3.5 million contract option for 2021 on Kendall Graveman, they re-signed the 29-year-old right-hander on Thursday. The club plans to give him an extended shot in a bullpen role next season.

Graveman’s new one-year deal is for $1.25 million, with the potential for more in incentives, sources told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. USA Today reported that Graveman can earn an additional $1.5 million if he finishes 40 games, $500,000 for pitching 60-plus innings and $500,000 for being on the active roster for at least 150 days. The club has not confirmed the terms of the deal.

Graveman opened last season in Seattle’s rotation after signing as a free agent, but he made just two starts before going on the injured list with a neck issue that eventually was diagnosed as a benign bone tumor. He returned to pitch nine games in relief, posting a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings. With Graveman featuring an upper 90s fastball, the Mariners are intrigued by his potential to help their rebuilding bullpen and are hoping the shorter stints allow him to manage the issue with his neck.

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Speaking on a video call from his home in Birmingham, Ala., Graveman said he was thrilled to be staying with Seattle’s rebuilding club and understood the decision to take less guaranteed money up front, given his health uncertainties.

“Probably a week ago, they reached out saying they weren’t going to pick up the option, but they wanted to try to get something done so I could continue to be a Mariner,” Graveman said. “I was on board. I see a lot of positives for the future.

“The whole thing I’m trying to get across is, ‘Let’s win.’ I see it. I feel it. And I think a lot of other people have that same feeling, but we have to continue to talk about it and lead in that direction. For me, this place has been such a good place for me. Seattle and the organization from top to bottom, it’s felt like family. Hopefully, I have made an impact as much as people have impacted me.”

Graveman is 24-32 with a 4.44 ERA in 94 games (80 starts) over six Major League seasons, including time with the Blue Jays (2014) and Athletics (2015-18). The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder was a two-time Opening Day starter with Oakland and has teased teams with his potential, but injuries have been an issue other than his one fully healthy season in 2016 with the A’s.

An oblique injury ended Graveman’s rookie season in 2015 after 21 starts, and a strained right shoulder led to two injury list stints and just 19 starts in ’17. He made seven starts in ’18 before undergoing Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire ’19 campaign. Then came the neck issue this year.

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Graveman passed an extensive physical by the Mariners this week, including MRIs of his elbow and shoulder. He believes his neck issue will be alleviated by his bullpen role. Surgery to remove the bone tumor was ruled out several months ago, and he pitched in shorter stints without an issue after returning for the final three weeks of the season.

“I feel good,” he said. “The longevity of the outings was really the only time it showed up. It’s just me staying on top of it and learning my body more. I had zero effect with it when I was pitching out of the bullpen, so that gave me a lot of confidence.

“Also on the business side, that’s why we came down on so many guarantees, because there is a little bit of unknown on everyone’s part. But in my mind, going into next season, I feel confident that pitching out of the bullpen I won’t have any problems or setbacks with it. And I’m excited about that.”

Graveman quickly developed into one of the leaders on the young club this year, and that played into the Mariners’ desire to bring him back again.

“It’s been a drought in Seattle going to the postseason for a long time,” Graveman said. “If we want to win, we’re going to need everybody pulling in the same direction. Toward the end of the year, I saw that trend going up. I think the win column showed that. Moving forward, that’s what I’m telling all the guys: ‘Let’s go win. That’s the only thing that matters.’

“If we put everything we have into winning, I believe we’re a playoff team. We just need everybody on board, and I think we’re in a good spot.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.