Atlanta Braves: One Bullpen Arm to Target in Free Agency

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 22: Kendall Graveman #49 of the Seattle Mariners throws a pitch during the game against the Colorado Rockies at T-Mobile Park on June 22, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Mariners beat the Colorado Rockies 2-1. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JUNE 22: Kendall Graveman #49 of the Seattle Mariners throws a pitch during the game against the Colorado Rockies at T-Mobile Park on June 22, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Mariners beat the Colorado Rockies 2-1. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /
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The Atlanta Braves have struggled at times over the course of the 2021 season in the bullpen. Is there an upcoming free agent that the Braves should target to help secure the late innings going into next season?

While the Atlanta Braves are tops in the NL East and making a push for the postseason, it’s never too early to take a look forward to what Atlanta could do in the offseason.

Re-signing Freddie Freeman is 100% undoubtedly the No. 1 priority, but what else may the club look to do?

With a few notable players including Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly, and Jorge Soler all scheduled to hit free agency, the club will surely look to add to these potential positions of need in some form. However, upgrading the bullpen is also a key area that makes sense to add to as well.

Will Smith will be entering the final year of his 3 yrs/$40m deal (team option for 2023), while other names such as Martin, Jackson, Rodriguez, and Minter will all be aribtration-eligible. While it makes sense that a couple of those names along with Tyler Matzek will be back, there is room to add likely anywhere from one to three arms in the offseason.

When looking at potential free-agent relievers to target, there is one in particular who is dominating out in the AL West this season.

The Atlanta Braves should target Kendall Graveman in free agency

If the Braves want to make a move for a reliever in the offseason, one of their top targets should be 30-year-old right-hander Kendall Graveman.

Originally beginning his MLB career with the Blue Jays in 2014, Graveman was traded to Oakland in 2015 where he would spend four seasons acting solely as a starter. Showing flashes opening games, Graveman however acted primarily as a reliever a year ago when he landed in Seattle.

After struggling during a limited sample size last season, the 30-year-old has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball in 2021.

Beginning the season with the Mariners, Graveman appeared in 30 games with Seattle where he downright dominated posting a 0.82 ERA with 10 saves not allowing a single run across his first 16.2 IP of the season.

Across those 33 innings in Seattle, the right-hander showed vast improvement in key areas, including limiting free passes while showcasing increased strikeout potential.

However, the veteran was traded by Seattle to the Astros at the deadline in a bit of a surprising move (one that notably angered the Mariners clubhouse).

Even despite the quick change of scenery, Graveman has continued his phenomenal 2021 campaign posting a 1.80 ERA with 13 strikeouts and no walks across 10 innings so far this August.

For the year so far, Graveman’s 2021 full-season stat-line looks like this between Seattle and Houston:

  • 39 games (43 IP): 4-0, 1.05 ERA, 0.698 WHIP, 8 BB, 47 K

When looking at more advanced numbers on just how good Graveman has been this season, here are more of the right-handers season totals and percentages against, all of which are career-best’s for the 30-year-old.

  • Slash Line Against: .151/.225/.219 (.444 OPS)
  • HR%: 1.3%
  • K%: 29.4%
  • BB%: 5%
  • HardH%: 35.4%

It certainly appears that something has fully “clicked” during Graveman’s first full season as a reliever, making the upcoming free agent likely one of the more sought-after bullpen arms on the market. Should the Braves make a run for the veteran right-hander?

Graveman impressed earlier this season acting as a closer for the first time in his career, and has continued that success acting as a seventh/eighth inning option in Houston. Capable of pitching in any of the late innings, it’s easy to see why he will be a sought-after bullpen arm early in the offseason.

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So, could the Atlanta Braves be in play for the veteran right-hander? Obviously that’s unknown at the moment, but what is known is that if the Braves are going to target a late-inning relief option, Graveman is a name that should be around the top of the list.