Korey Lee for Kendall Graveman: A massive overpay
A lot of MLB trades end up not working out for either team. Many prospects do not pan out and short-term rentals, especially relievers, usually do not significantly impact their new squad.
It is unlikely that Korey Lee develops into an everyday big-league catcher. In his second year at AAA Sugarland, his wRC+ has dropped from 90 to 76. At age 25, there is still time for him to grow, but he is not a young prospect by any means. Forgive the crude expression, but it is time for Korey to s*** or get off the toilet. With that said, trading an asset that has the potential to produce surplus value (Lee) for a player who likely will not even be worth his salary (Graveman), seems like a losing proposition.
Kendall Graveman: You probably aren’t getting what you pay for.
Kendall Graveman has not exactly been great in 2023. Although his ERA is a solid 3.48, his ERA estimators tell a much different story: Graveman’s FIP and X-FIP are both 4.85, and his X-ERA is 4.32.
Perhaps he is due for a bounce back, his K/9 rate is down about a half strikeout from last year, but his Called strike + Swinging strike percentage (CSW%), which predicts future strikeout rates quite well, is up .5% from last year. However, his groundball percentage is down 15 percentage points from 2022, and given that groundball percentage only takes about 70 balls in play to be considered statistically significant, it is completely fair to conclude that he is not the same pitcher that he was in 2021. The Astros will, however, be paying him like the pitcher he was in 2021.
At $10 million for the rest of next season and next, the Astros are paying him like a solid middle reliever who, theoretically, should produce about 1 WAR per year (free agents are generally paid $8 to $10 million a year for every projected WAR). For reference, the 32-year-old middle reliever in question has been worth -.1 WAR in 2023. Given his advanced age and precipitous dip in performance, it is unlikely that Kendall is even worth his salary, much less the Astros’ 5th-ranked prospect.
Conclusion: This just isn’t making much sense
To have the privilege of paying an over-the-hill reliever an inflated salary for the rest of this year and next, the Astros gave up their 5th best prospect. As previously stated, Korey Lee will probably not amount to much as an everyday big leaguer, but there is a decent chance that he can develop into a catcher that can play good defense and not completely suck at the plate; in other words, a solid backup.
The Astros will likely need a backup catcher for Diaz next season, please don’t subject us to another season of Maldy, which could cost the Astros $10 million a year in the FA market. Christian Vazquez cost Minnesota $10 million a year. They could have given the job to Korey Lee for the league minimum; however, they decided to trade him for a bullpen arm that is currently pitching like a replacement-level player. Perhaps Dana and company see something special in Graveman, but I cannot help but be skeptical.