Image credit: Kendall Graveman (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images)
On Friday afternoon the Astros struck a deal with the White Sox to acquire relief pitcher Kendall Graveman for catcher Korey Lee, who ranked No. 29 on the Astros Top 30 at our midseason update.
The Astros added an experienced veteran they’re familiar with, having traded for Graveman at the 2021 trade deadline when they acquired the reliever from the Mariners. Graveman provides the Astros with needed depth in the bullpen, fortifying an already strong group. The White Sox are taking a flier on a former first-round pick and Top 100 prospect who’s seen his prospect status plummet in recent seasons. Lee provides them with a close-to-the majors option at catcher with some offensive ability.
Kendall Graveman, RHP
Graveman spent parts of five seasons as a starter early in his career with the Athletics before converting to the bullpen during the 2020 season with the Mariners. He split the 2021 season between the Mariners and Astros and signed with the White Sox as a free agent prior to the 2022 season. He’s made 110 appearances over parts of two seasons in Chicago, recording 14 saves and 35 holds over that time. He’s developed into one of the most consistent middle relief options in the game. He mixes a mid-90s sinking fastball with a high-80s slider primarily—the two pitches account for 75% of his pitch usage. He will occasionally throw a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball. So far this season Graveman has been fairly lucky on balls in play with a .239 BABIP. Whether that luck follows him to Houston is a lingering question.
WHITE SOX ACQUIRE
Korey Lee, C
Drafted out of California in the first round of the 2019 draft, Lee made his MLB debut in 2022, playing in 12 games for the Astros. Lee has one of the strongest arms in baseball, but the rest of his work behind the plate is more of a concern. During his time with the Astros in 2022, Lee ranked 99th in Statcast’s Catcher Blocking among the 110 catchers with 50 or more pitches caught. He also was a slightly below-average pitch framer. This has continued to be a problem this season in Triple-A. Among Pacific Coast League catchers with 20-plus games played this year, Lee has allowed the highest rate of wild pitches and passed balls per inning. He’s averaged one per 9.8 innings this year. He averaged one per 9.5 innings in the PCL in 2022. While his struggles behind the plate have plagued Lee, he’s equally struggled at the plate, hitting .283/.328/.406 over 68 games. While Lee’s prospect pedigree has deteriorated in recent years, the White Sox will look to recapture what once made him one of the top catching prospects in the minors. He possesses an elite throwing arm, which earns consistent 80-grade evaluations, but it’s been limited by other parts of his game. Lee possesses average plate skills and power, but that’s only produced fringe results over the last two seasons. He’s also on his second option already. If the White Sox can help him develop behind the plate quickly, that may not be much of a problem, but if not, it will limit his roster flexibility before too long.