SEATTLE – The Houston Astros had one of the best relievers in baseball, acquiring right-hander Kendall Graveman from the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday in a rare change within the division as teams prepared to play against each other.
Graveman and Rafael Montero will go to the Astros, leaders of the AL West Division, with infielder Abraham Toro and reliever Joe Smith returning to Seattle.
Graveman, with tears in his eyes, said he was surprised by the change and had assumed he would stick with the Mariners, who had courageously won four games in a row against divisional opponents.
“I didn’t see it coming, but there’s always that ‘This game is a business’ percentage,” Graveman said as he stood in front of the Astros’ bench. “I’m telling the truth and honestly, what I felt is that we’re nine games over .500 on that side and we played pretty well while I was there. That takes me out of the last five days, honestly, I think. But we’ll see if they bounce back. ”
The move bolsters a Houston bullpen that has struggled at times and has an ERA above 4.00 this season.
“We are always looking to improve every aspect of the roster,” Astros general manager James Click said. “This one is focused on the bullpen. But we’re not taking any options off the table when it comes to getting in position to compete for a World Series.”
Graveman is 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 10 saves in 30 appearances this year. He missed nearly a month due to COVID-19 protocols in May and June, but has been dominant on the mound. Graveman hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past 12 appearances.
On paper, it seems like a baffling decision by Seattle to give up its most dominant reliever while failing to fill a position of need with the Mariners just one game away from the Oakland Athletics in the AL wild-card race: The Astros lead to the Athletics for five games.
Graveman said his former teammates took the news of the trade very badly and there was immediate confusion among players, fans and observers about Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto’s decision.
The first question for Dipoto in his post-trade press conference: How does this move make sense to the Mariners?
“It probably won’t be independently, but it’s part of a context that will be an ongoing story for the next few days” as the trade deadline approaches, Dipoto said.
“What comes next could be as early as tonight or tomorrow because we plan to be active,” he added.
Houston manager Dusty Baker said he sees Ryan Pressly as his closer for now, but will not hesitate to turn to Graveman.
“In modern times, it seems like most teams are changing to try and win the deal, but this is a change that will benefit both of us,” Baker said.
Montero was designated for assignment by the Mariners last week after being acquired in the offseason from Texas Rangers. Smith has a career-worst 7.48 ERA in 27 games for the Astros after not pitching during the 2020 season.
Toro found out about the change in the middle of his round in the batting cage.
“And I just walked over here,” Toro said.
He then went into the batting cage to resume his warm-ups in a new uniform jersey.
Toro is in his third season and has played primarily at third base, where the Mariners have veteran Kyle Seager entrenched. Toro has also played first base and has a game at second base this season, a position the Mariners may be looking to improve before the trade deadline.
Toro is hitting .211 with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 35 games this season.
“They’re hungry, we all saw it yesterday,” Toro said of Seattle’s 11-8 win over the Astros on Monday. “They were losing 7-0 and they came back. These guys are hungry.”