The Mariners have declined to exercise their $3.5MM club option on right-hander Kendall Graveman, as Graveman was listed by the MLB Players Association as one of 147 players who officially entered free agency today. Graveman will instead receive a $500K buyout from the Mariners.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2018, Graveman didn’t pitch in the majors last season but returned to toss 18 2/3 innings for Seattle in 2020. Graveman inked a one-year deal with the Mariners last offseason that paid him $1.5MM in salary for the 2020 season, as well as the $500K minimum in buyout money and the potential for $3MM more if the option was picked up.
The righty started his first two outings before heading to the injured list with what was originally described as neck spasms, but further examination revealed a benign bone tumor in Graveman’s cervical spine. Despite that scary-sounding diagnosis, Graveman not only returned to the mound, but pitched well as a reliever in nine further games — a 3.60 ERA over those 10 relief frames, with three of his four runs allowed coming in one rough outing against the Giants.
Graveman has worked exclusively as a starter since the 2014 season, but his success as a reliever perhaps hinted at a new role for the 29-year-old (who turns 30 in December) going forward. While a new team could still look into Graveman as a starter, he might also market himself as a multi-inning reliever or swingman on the open market.
Whether Graveman joins a new team is also in question, as 710 ESPN’s Shannon Drayer tweets that the Mariners have interest in bringing Graveman back on a new deal. While Graveman’s injuries could quite possibly have led to Seattle declining his option under normal offseason conditions, the Mariners’ decision to punt on the extra $3MM to retain Graveman’s services is perhaps a hint about how the M’s (and other teams) will be cautious with any sort of borderline financial decision this winter in the face of 2020’s revenue losses.