White Sox sign reliever Kendall Graveman to 3-year, $24 million deal

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Kendall Graveman talked to Lance Lynn and Dallas Keuchel, and he exchanged text messages with Liam Hendriks.

All that homework led him to the Chicago White Sox.

Graveman agreed to a three-year, $24 million contract with Chicago, giving the White Sox additional flexibility with their bullpen.

The 30-year-old Graveman is expected to pitch in front of Hendriks, who had 38 saves and a 2.54 ERA in his first season with Chicago. The defending AL Central champions also have Craig Kimbrel, but he could be on the move after he faltered in a setup role with the White Sox.

Chicago also brought back veteran utilityman Leury Garcia with a three-year contract. The 30-year-old Garcia batted .267 with five homers and a career-high 54 RBIs in 126 games this season.

A person with direct knowledge of the contract confirmed Garcia’s deal to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it hadn’t been finalized.

The White Sox have an opening at second base after trading Nick Madrigal to the Cubs in the Kimbrel deal in July, and Garcia could get the job if the team isn’t able to bring in a better alternative.

MLB Network was the first to report Garcia’s deal.

General manager Rick Hahn got the contracts for Graveman and Garcia in place right before what likely will be Major League Baseball’s first work stoppage since 1995. The five-year collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. EST Wednesday, and owners are expected to lock out the players if the sides can’t reach a new labor deal in time.

“I thought personally that if the right opportunity presented itself before (Dec. 1 or Dec. 2), whatever the timeframe is, that we should take it,” Graveman said, “and I thought this was a very good (deal).”

After beginning his career as a starter, Graveman flourished while working out of the bullpen this year. He went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and his first 10 career saves in 53 games with Seattle and Houston.

“I am trying to get three outs or four outs or five outs whenever my name is called,” Graveman said, “and I have no ego in this game. I (couldn’t) care less about personal stats. I want to help the baseball team win.”

Graveman said Chicago reached out right after he became a free agent and kept up its pursuit all the way until he agreed to terms. He said his conversations with Lynn, Keuchel and Hendriks helped close the deal for the White Sox.

“It’s been a young team for a long time, but now guys that have families that are there are showing that the organization is putting emphasis in making sure that the families are taken care of,” Graveman said. “Which I think is huge for myself. I have a wife and two young daughters that will be going with me.”

Graveman made his major league debut with Toronto in 2014, but he appeared in just five games before he was traded to Oakland in a multiplayer deal for Josh Donaldson. Graveman pitched his only career shutout in the A’s 9-0 victory at the White Sox on Aug. 19, 2016.

He was Oakland’s opening-day starter in 2018, but his season was cut short by reconstructive elbow surgery. He returned to the majors last year with Seattle and had a 3.60 ERA in nine relief appearances in September, setting the stage for his breakout performance in 2021.

“Kendall is a veteran who provides us with end-of-game bullpen depth and an ability to induce ground balls,” Hahn said in a release. “He’s a high-character guy and a great teammate who will fit well within our clubhouse and bullpen.”

Graveman also brings more playoff experience to a White Sox team that hasn’t won a postseason series since its 2005 championship. The right-hander appeared in nine postseason games with Houston this year, allowing two earned runs in 11 innings.

“I learned that every out is magnified in the postseason. I learned that there’s no need to panic,” Graveman said. “I think that a young team has a tendency to, even when their back’s against the wall or you’re down a few games, to stress and add extra stress on every pitch in a game, instead of going out and having fun and just playing the game the way you have throughout 162.”

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images

TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.