The Cubs are signing their annual(?) Tommy John surgery rehabber, and this time it’s former Oakland A’s starter Kendall Graveman, who had surgery in July, and figures to be out for most, if not all, of this coming season.
The Cubs are close to signing pitcher Kendall Graveman. 78 career starts, 4.38 ERA. Been with Oakland the last 4 years
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 22, 2018
Graveman is getting a big league deal, per Rogers, and the Cubs can control him thereafter via arbitration for two more years (or it’s possible the Cubs will just have options or guaranteed years built in, regardless of arbitration). Philosophically, it’s similar to the Drew Smyly deal, and I say that’s just fine.
Having just turned 28 this month, Graveman could have many productive years ahead of him if he recovers well from surgery. Before his injured year in 2018, he was persistently a low-4s ERA starter for the A’s, which was just about league average by ERA-. His FIP was a little bit higher, but he seems to have been a very good contact manager (low hard contact, high groundball rate), so the lower ERA was probably earned. To that end, a league-average starter isn’t something that’ll get you too excited, but any team would be happy to have a guy like that at the back of the rotation.
Maybe Graveman will be that guy for the Cubs in 2020. Maybe he won’t. At a minimal cost and a 40-man roster spot, the Cubs will have the option to see how he looks when he returns from his rehab.
UPDATE: As expected, Graveman basically gets the league minimum to rehab this year, and then the Cubs will hold a $3 million team option:
Cubs Kendall Graveman gets $575 K in 19 and $3 club option in 2020 . No buyout
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 22, 2018
That option is kind of like an option of an option, because if $3 million is too steep, the Cubs will also have the right to decline the option and then tender Graveman an arbitration contract (if it projects to be less than $3 million (which is admittedly unlikely because he’ll have four years of service time at that point)). That option is likely to save the Cubs money, because if he rehabs healthily enough for the Cubs to want Graveman in 2020, he’s probably going to project to get more than $3 million in arbitration.
Good, cheap, low-risk deal.
UPDATE 2: Strike that, as there were some atypical provisions built into the deal:
Kendall Graveman: 2019 – $575,000
2019 Escalator: 1 active day – 2019 salary increases to the rate of $2M. 2020 – $3M (club option)
Can earn an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses. If 2020 option not exercised player will become XXB free agent. #Cubs
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 22, 2018