Rick Hahn has made his first meaningful acquisition of the offseason. Jon Heyman announced on Twitter that the White Sox are closing in on a deal for Kendall Graveman worth $24 million for three seasons.
The White Sox bullpen turned out to be a problem area for them in 2021. They had lofty expectations heading into the season that they failed to live up to. It became evident quite early that the bullpen needed reinforcements so Rick Hahn went out and added Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel from the Chicago Cubs with the hopes of solidifying the back end of the bullpen. The Craig Kimbrel move did not pan out and the White Sox are actively looking for a trade partner for him.
With pitchers going fast early in the offseason Rick Hahn and the front office promptly decided to address the issue. Graveman is an effective veteran reliever that will likely replace Craig Kimbrel as the eighth-inning setup man. He is also half the cost of Kimbrel which is a plus.
The White Sox got a good look at Graveman during the ALDS. In nine games this postseason, he has a 1-0 record, 1.64 ERA, and 11 strikeouts.He opened the 2021 season with the Seattle Mariners and was lethal out of their bullpen. He posted a 0.82 ERA before being traded to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. He finished the year with 10 saves and a 1.77 ERA.
Graveman mostly thrived in a setup role which is exactly what the White Sox need. Liam Hendriks has the closer role locked up so the White Sox just need to build a bridge to the ninth inning. During the last two seasons, Graveman has held opponents to a .221 and .180 batting average.
Graveman has a big right arm. His fastball velocity ranked in the 91st percentile of all major league pitchers in 2021. He can hum it in around 98 mph and compliments that with a hard slider. As a result, opponents struggled to barrel up Graveman. He ranked in the 79th percentile in average exit velocity and the 75th percentile in hard-hit percentage.
The White Sox have also shown they like pitchers with a high ground ball rate. Graveman had a 56 percent ground ball rate on all balls put in play against him. This should play well at Guaranteed Rate Field considering the ball flies out of the ballpark.
The 30-year-old veteran also has excellent stuff. He ranked in the 77th percentile in strikeout percentage and 68th in chase rate. Graveman does own a career 4.15 ERA so the White Sox are rolling the dice by shelling out $24 million to a reliever with one good season under his belt.
But assuming he can continue his success the combination of Graveman, Crochet, and Bummer should create a sturdy bridge to Liam Hendriks in the ninth inning. They still may look to add a few more arms if they do indeed move Kimbrel. If not they may opt to just roll with the most expensive bullpen in baseball.
With a lockout looming the market for pitchers has been hot. Now the White Sox will turn their attention to addressing their needs at second base and right field.