Athletics right-hander Kendall Graveman will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair ligament damage in his right elbow, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Graveman tells Slusser that he’s been rehabbing in the minors for six weeks after an MRI revealed some damage, but he hasn’t healed sufficiently enough to avoid surgical repair. He’ll be out for the remainder of the 2018 season and will likely miss the majority of (or possibly all of) the 2019 campaign as well.
Graveman, 27, emerged as a solid mid-rotation option for the A’s from 2015-17 after coming over as part of the widely panned Josh Donaldson blockbuster with the Blue Jays. While he was hardly a household name outside of Oakland, Graveman worked to a 4.11 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 and well above-average ground-ball tendencies through 407 innings across that three-year span. That proved enough to land him an Opening Day start in 2018, but the season wound up being a forgettable one for the righty.
Graveman was tagged for five runs in five innings to kick off the Athletics’ season, and he ultimately made only six starts in the Majors (allowing three or more runs in each) before being surprisingly optioned to Triple-A Nashville. He’d return for one start in mid-May before being sent back to Nashville, and he’s been on the minor league disabled list since early June.
Because Graveman’s injury appears to have occurred in the minors, he’ll spend the remainder of the season on the minor league disabled list (barring an additional move to the MLB 60-day DL). As such, he’s not likely to accrue the Major League service time needed to reach four full years of service. Put another way, the circumstances of his season-ending injury seem likely to delay his path to free agency by a year. Graveman will finish out the season with between three and four years of service, meaning he’ll arbitration-eligible this offseason and once again in each of the two subsequent offseasons. While he’d previously been on track to hit the open market after the 2020 season, it now seems he’s lined up to reach free agency after the 2021 season.
Of course, that assumes that the A’s retain Graveman. He’s earning $2.375MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the first time last winter, and he’d likely be in line for the same salary — or at best, a very minimal raise — in 2019. There’s certainly reason to think the A’s would keep him around anyhow, as they’d effectively be paying him in 2019 for the right to control him cheaply in 2020-21, but the injury at the very least creates some uncertainty surrounding his future with the organization.