Tag: Jesse Crain

Masahiro Tanaka and Jesse Crain Are Cubs’ Remaining Free-Agent Targets

As the MLB offseason winds down and the pickings get slimmer and slimmer for every team, each club figures to have a couple of more players on their Christmas wish list that didn’t quite make it for the holiday season. For the Chicago Cubs, there are two remaining players that could land in Chicago by the time the snow melts in the spring. 

With most of the hitters off the open market, there are two arms that President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are upset weren’t in their stockings on Wednesday. 

The relief pitcher that could land in the Windy City in the coming weeks is former South Sider Jesse Crain


Reliever Jesse Crain 

While he only appeared in 38 games last season due to a shoulder strain, Crain had a sterling ERA of 0.74 a season ago. For that reason, several teams are going to be in the running for the shutdown right hander

A key competitor for Crain‘s services could be the Colorado Rockies. The 32-year-old grew up in Boulder, Colorado. According to the Denver Post‘s Troy Renck, the Rockies were interested in trading for the set-up man last summer, and he recently tweeted that they could easily pursue him as winter rolls on. 

Due to health concerns, it could be a few more weeks until Crain signs with a team. That will allow ample time for teams to assess his health situation and see how live his arm looks. If his arm looks nearly as good as it did last season, several teams will want to ink him to a deal. 

For the Cubs, as long as Crain appears healthy it seems like he will get an offer from the North Siders, according to Bruce Levine on Twitter

Adding Crain would solidify an already drastically improved bullpen for the Cubs. Having a back-end of the bullpen consisting of James Russell, Pedro Strop, Crain and Jose Veras would instantly impact the Cubs’ win total in 2014 and beyond. 

Crain made $4.5 million a season ago, finishing the final year of a three-year, $13 million deal. Based on his injury situation, Crain will likely take a pay cut. However, it’s also likely that Crain will seek a short-term, one- or two-year deal while trying to prove his health and effectiveness. 


Starting Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka

The sole big-name free agent that the Cubs have expressed interest in this offseason is Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka

Based on his stat line of 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA a season ago playing for Rakuten in the JPPL, a bidding war is brewing for the 25-year-old righty. In the bidding war, traditional powers such as the New York Yankees will be preparing their biggest weapons: their pocketbooks. 

According to Marc Carig of Newsday, teams figuring to be serious contenders for Tanaka‘s services are the Yankees, L.A. Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Cubs. 

Unfortunately, it may be tough for the Cubs to compete with those teams for Tanaka on a number of different fronts. 

The Yankees may be able to outbid the Cubs if they want Tanaka badly enough. They’ve already been frivolous, signing catcher Brian McCann and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran and probably aren’t done yet. Deep pockets in New York may prevent Tanaka from landing in Chicago. 

Playing on the West Coast, the Dodgers have a clear geographical advantage over the other teams in the running for Tanaka. Simply because of their proximity to Japan and the population of Asian-Americans on the West Coast, the Dodgers may have an advantage over other suitors if the amount of money involved is equal. 

One thing that the Rangers have that other suitors don’t is a pitcher that recently came over from Asia to the United States. Yu Darvish, who finished second in American League Cy Young voting in 2013, was signed by Texas in the offseason before the 2012 season. 

By being frugal with their money the past couple of seasons, the Cubs have put themselves in a position to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers in a bidding war. Signing Tanaka could come down to just how much the Cubs front office wants the young pitcher. 

Should the Cubs sign Tanaka, it could have a trickle-down effect on the Jeff Samardzija situation as well, according to Bruce Levine on Twitter

If Tanaka ends up in Chicago, both sides could see things differently. For one, Samardzija will see that the club is committed to contending sooner rather than later. Based on past contract discussions, the ability for the Cubs to contend has seemed like the most important thing to Samardzija, assuming the sides can agree monetarily. 

Clearly, adding either Crain, Tanaka or both would be beneficial for the Cubs in 2014 and beyond. Signing Crain could be a low-risk, high-reward move, and winning the bidding war for Tanaka could speed up the contention timeline for the Cubs. 

Only time will tell where these two and other free agents land as the offseason comes to a close. The Cubs front office and fans alike are holding out hope that their Christmas wish lists get a few more check marks by winter’s end. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2014 MLB Free Agency: Best Bargains Still Available on the Market

Of the free-agent signings thus far, there are certainly a couple that could turn out to be bargains. If Josh Johnson (San Diego Padres) and Chris Young (New York Mets) return to form, they’ll be well worth the one-year deals at the cost of $8 million and $7.25 million, respectively.

Same for David Murphy, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Cleveland Indians, and LaTroy Hawkins, who will cost the Colorado Rockies no more than $2.5 million to at least start the season as their closer.

Here are five more potential bargains still available on the free-agent market. 

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MLB Trade Deadline: 5 Players Who Could Tip the Balance of Power If Moved

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and there is no doubt that several high-profile players will be changing teams before it passes. Players like Matt Garza, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley could all be dealt soon and may end up having huge impacts on playoff races.

Even the teams in first place coming out of the All-Star break know they have holes to fill, and now that there are two Wild Card spots, more teams feel they can make a run, and you can bet that the players on this list will be pursued heavily.

The following players are ranked according to the impact they can have if traded.

Present and past statistics, as well as present ability, are the best ways to judge the impact a player might have if traded.

It is also important to note how a player’s current environment factors into their statistics. A power hitter who plays in a big park might not have great numbers, but could do a lot for a contending team that plays in a hitters’ park.

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Chicago White Sox: The Clash to Close and Battle for the Pen

I’ve got some big news, White Sox fans.

In light of the openings in the White Sox bullpen, I have decided to forgo my career in sports journalism to challenge the likes of Hector Santiago, Gregory Infante, Dylan Axelrod, Brian Bruney, Zach Stewart and Eric Stults in their quest to make the big club.

In all seriousness, the existence of these openings in the White Sox relief corps isn’t necessarily reassuring for Sox fans. Keep in mind that Will Ohman already has his name penciled into the roster card.  Ouch.

Before I go on my usual rant, let me give some credit to Bruney for slimming down and looking exactly like from Frank on American Pickers (yeah, I watch the History Channel). His sleekness has proved to be successful in the early-going as the righty hasn’t allowed a run while striking out three in two appearances so far.

Axelrod, a 30th-round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres, has been a cute, little side-story for a team that needs a spark of optimism and good energy. (Exactly what I can provide.)

When Kenny Williams shipped Sergio Santos to Toronto, he set up the White Sox bullpen for disaster.

Now, the group consists of a collection of parts primarily unwanted by the rest of the league that is headlined by set-up men Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton.

But wait, who will Robin Ventura call on to close out the nail-biters?

To this point, it seems as though the closer’s job is a three-horsed competition between Thornton, Crain and Addison Reed.

Thornton and Crain, league veterans, will undoubtedly be given the first crack at the opportunity because of their success in the league.  

Notice that I didn’t allude to their successes at closing ball games. Neither Thornton or Crain have exactly lit the world on fire in this stressful role.

Thornton was named the closer at the beginning of last season and fell flat on his face, converting only three saves in seven opportunities. Yeah, he faced a little bit of a bad luck with atrocious fielding behind him, but you can’t expect to blow four saves and still remain the closer of a team expecting to compete.

Crain, albeit masterful at times, has a propensity of serving up gopher-balls late in games. Although he did put together a great season (8-3, 2.62 ERA, 70 K in 67 G), he’s a set-up man. Let’s not try the Matt Thornton Experiment again.

Closing in the big leagues requires a certain type of mentality. Grit and mental toughness are absolute essentials towards success in the ninth inning. While I’m not questioning Crain’s mental toughness, he’s closed a mere four games in his MLB career. Let’s not make orange juice out of lemons. (I love making up mantras on the spot.)

At just 23 years old, Reed can still be molded into a major league closer. He possesses a big fastball/nasty slider combination and a deceptive delivery that can make him an immediate asset to the big club. During garbage time last season, the San Diego State alumni struck out 12 guys in six appearances in September. If my math is correct, that’s approximately two Ks an outing. 

Punch-outs aside, Reed is still young enough where he can develop the intensity and “Kenny-Powerness” to close out the nail-biting, leg-shaking White Sox victories. 

Apart from the the bullpen, the White Sox starting rotation and lineup seem to be pretty set in stone. 

The rotation boasts the likes of John “$65 million No. 4 starter” Danks, Gavin “The Phillies drafted me instead of Mark Teixeira” Floyd, Jake “I won a Cy Young before the recession” Peavy, Phil “I hope the magic that invaded my body last season doesn’t wear off” Humber and Chris “Why am I included with this bunch of schmos” Sale.

Don’t keep get me started on the starting lineup. Obvious highlights include Adam “If I strike out quickly on three pitches, maybe the fans won’t notice” Dunn and Alex “I’m going to buy a $12 million diamond tiara with all the money I’m owed” Rios.

But, at least the team now features Kosuke Fukudome. Joking aside, his signing was one of Kenny’s better moves. Finally, an outfielder who can actually read a fly ball. What a concept.

Dan Johnson, former “Moneyball” first basemen of the Oakland Athletics, will hopefully bring some good defense and OBP to a team that could use another lifetime .235 hitter.

The fact that I have to mention Dan Johnson in my column isn’t necessarily an optimistic foreboding for the 2012 White Sox.  

Although the Pale Hose might not compete for the pennant, Sox fans should look on the bright side.

While 20 different pitchers might get their 15 minutes of fame in the White Sox bullpen, I won’t be one of them.  

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Chicago White Sox: Coming in To Close for the Sox Is…

Reading the latest news around Major League Baseball, I saw a Chicago Tribune article that says that manager Ozzie Guillen wants to name one closer between Chris Sale or Matt Thornton since Bobby Jenks departed for Boston and switched his Sox.

Chris Sale is a flame-throwing pitcher that came onto the scene last year for the White Sox. Sale was taken as the 13th pick in last season’s amateur draft and appeared in 21 games for the Sox gathering four saves and a 1.93 ERA.

Matt Thornton has been a bullpen guy for the White Sox for the past five seasons. Last year, Thornton had eight saves in 61 games for Chicago.

Who’s better suited for the job?

If you haven’t known, the White Sox are leaning towards making Chris Sale a starter in the future. Sale had some success in college at Florida Gulf Coast before joining Chicago. If anything happens to Jake Peavy or any other Sox starter, I’ll bet you Sale will be immediately place in the rotation.

That being said, Thornton is probably more suitable since you know he’s a bullpen guy and you’re probably not going to keep switching him from the rotation and back. 

If anything, Thornton will turn out to probably share the closer role with Sale, but get more appearances. If he fails, newly acquired Jesse Crain or Will Ohman could help. 

In 71 games for the Twins last season, Crain had an ERA of 3.04 and had only one save while Joe Nathan sat all season and Jon Rauch took over closer duties. Will Ohman split time between Baltimore and Florida and carried a 3.21 ERA in 68 games and did not record a save.

Barring the completely insane, Ohman would be a specialist and Crain would be a setup man this season.

What about you White Sox fans? Who will be the closer starting the 2011 season?

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jesse Crain Is Leaving: Should Minnesota Twins Fans Be Upset or Grateful?

Earlier this week, Jesse Crain signed a three-year, $13 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

As I mentioned in a previous article, the Twins are going to really need to bolster their bullpen in order to three-peat as Central Division champions.

But is losing Crain such a bad thing? Let’s examine this question.

First, Crain had a tough start to the 2010 season, and it can be said he would have had a tougher finish if it weren’t for his talk with Jon Rauch. Rauch gave him some mechanical as well as pitch selection advice, and Crain took off in early summer and continued through the final days of the regular season.

He was almost unhittable in August and September but again fizzled out during the playoffs (the bomb hit by Mark Teixeira comes to mind).

Second, Crain is a one-pitch pitcher. He has fallen in love with the slider, and anytime you fall in love with a pitch that takes that much physical toll on your body, you are asking for arm problems. Crain has had surgery already in his brief career, and throwing the slider as your primary pitch doesn’t help things. Yes, it is a strikeout pitch, but you don’t want to rely solely on one pitch, which Crain had certainly done.

Third, Crain wanted to close. Even if Joe Nathan comes back at 80 to 90 percent of what he was prior to the Tommy John surgery, he’s better than Crain. Throw in Matt Capps and Crain wouldn’t have closed anyway. He has stated numerous times that he wants to close, and being in the situation that he was in, it wasn’t going to work out for him.

Which leads me to the last point: Did Jesse Crain really want to be a Twin anyway?

Looking into his quotes from his press conference, my thoughts are he couldn’t get out of here quick enough. “I’m not sure what they are doing” comes to mind when asked what he thought the Twins were doing by not re-signing him. That quote alone makes me wonder, do we want you in a Twins uniform anyway? Just because you aren’t closing, don’t throw your former team under the bus.

Judging on past performances, the Twins will be licking their chops to get a look at No. 26 this year.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Chicago White Sox Still in the Mix: Don’t Forget the South Side

With all of the hoopla surrounding the Boston Red Sox (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks), the Washington Nationals (Jayson Werth), the Philadelphia Phillies (Cliff Lee) and the Milwaukee Brewers (Zack Greinke), it seems that the Chicago White Sox have been dismissed as a contender for 2011.

But lost in the free agent frenzy this hot stove season, were the signings of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko to multi-year contracts.  Together, this duo has hit over 700 home runs during their careers, and with both of them in the fold, the White Sox have one scary lineup. 

LF – Juan Pierre

SS – Alexi Ramirez

1B – Paul Konerko

DH – Adam Dunn

RF – Carlos Quentin

CF – Alex Rios

C – A.J. Pierzynski

2B – Gordon Beckham

3B – Mark Teahen/Brent Morel


This lineup is balanced and full of power.  It’s unlikely that the ChiSox will be in on free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, but Pedro Feliz could be a nice fit at the hot corner.

And as scary as this lineup is, the pitching staff has to be considered one of the best in the league.

Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson comprise what is already a formidable staff.  Jake Peavy is recovering from a detached latissimus dorsi in his right shoulder, which was sustained last July.  Peavy is due back towards the end of May, at the latest and should provide this already stacked rotation with quite a boost.

While Peavy is out, rookie Chris Sale could be called upon to man the fifth spot in the rotation.  Sale was drafted by the Sox in the first round of last year’s draft.  He played 11 games in the farm system for the South Siders, and made his MLB debut on August 6.  In limited action in Chicago, Sale went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA and a 3.20 K/BB ratio.

Once Peavy is back, Sale could very well become the team’s new closer – a position vacated when Bobby Jenks signed with the Sox of a different color.  And all that would do is fortify what is already a deep bullpen.

Despite going with a “closer-by-committee”, the White Sox have a very solid relief core.  They just inked righty Jesse Crain to a new three-year deal.  He joins lefty Matt Thornton and hard-thrower Tony Pena as part of this strong back-end.

And who knows, there are still closers available on the market.  Kevin Gregg, Octavio Dotel, Brian Fuentes, and of course Rafael Soriano all have extensive ninth inning experience under their belts.

This team is well balanced and well versed.  They are solid defensively.  They have a bunch of thump in their lineup.  And their pitching staff is among the best in the game.  And as unconventional as he is, Ozzie Guillen has proved that he knows how to manage a ball club.  I see no reason why the Chicago White Sox should not win the AL Central crown in 2011.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

White Sox Sign Jesse Crain: Will He Be the Closer in Chicago?

According to MLB sources, the White Sox have agreed to a three-year deal with 29-year-old right-hander Jesse Crain.

Crain sported a 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, walking 27 and striking out 62 in 68 innings of setup duty for division rival Minnesota Twins last season.

In each of his last four seasons, Crain has increased the velocity of his fastball going from 93.9 miles per hour in 2007 to 94.1 in 2008, 94.3 in 2009 and a career-high of 94.8 in 2010.

Crain brings a career 3.42 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 382 career innings, walking 141 and striking out 264 as a reliever.

With the White Sox losing J.J. Putz, trading Scott Linebrink and essentially cutting Bobby Jenks loose, the question around the team—after the signing of Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski—was who would be in this team’s bullpen.

With Chris Sale, Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos already in place with Tony Pena taking the long innings, Crain should step in fine with this team, subbing in as another right-handed setup man.

The real question is who will be the closer of this team if the White Sox make no more moves?

We look toward Jake Peavy for that answer. Whether or not whispers of Sale starting the season in the starting rotation will depend on if or how long Peavy will be out.

If Peavy is out, Sale could be in the starting rotation, which moves everyone up in the pen, bringing Thornton to the closer role and Santos and Crain to the eighth inning—something Crain has more experience in than Santos.

However, the bullpen of the White Sox collapsed last season with the injury to Jenks and each bullpen pitcher essentially moving up an inning and handing the closer role to Thornton.

So perhaps changing the roles is not the smartest thing to do. If Peavy is out a short amount of time, Pena could be asked to make a couple of spot starts, leaving the closer role to Sale and leaving Thornton, Crain and Santos in their respective positions.

If Peavy is not out at all, all of this is erroneous.

With Crain, however, the White Sox have sured up a solid-looking bullpen. Who will be at the end of that bullpen is yet to be answered.

Good news for White Sox fans is the White Sox have options. Bad news is it will take some experimenting to find the right answer.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Free Agency: Rafael Soriano and the Top 15 Specialty Relievers Available

After Carl Crawford’s surprise signing by the Boston Red Sox, MLB’s free agent pool is slowly starting to dwindle down.

Cliff Lee is still out there for the New York Yankees’ or Texas Rangers’ taking, but there aren’t a whole lot of other marquee names left.

As for free agent relievers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—not to be confused with all of the other Los Angeles residing in MLB—scooped up Scott Downs, the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed Jose Contreras, Joaquin Benoit went to the Detriot Tigers, and the Bronx Bombers kept Mariano Rivera.

Still there’s a solid group of relievers left for any teams trying to shore up their bullpens this offseason.

Here’s a list of the top 15 specialty relievers still available.

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Minnesota Twins: Hot Stove Heat Up—12 Questions Facing The Twins.

Baseball’s winter meetings begin this week in Florida.

This can be a time when those hot stoves really get fired up.

Twins’ General Manager Bill Smith has needs to be addressed as the team heads into its second season at Target Field.

No longer playing small-market ball, the team’s payroll is projected to be around $102 to $120 million for the 2011 season.

If Minnesota is going to successfully defend the American League Central Title and make that step to the next level, then Smith will have to make some moves.

Here are 12 points to ponder as Twins’ fans look forward to the 2011 season.

The official start of winter may still be a little over two weeks away, but keep in mind that pitchers and catchers report in only 74 days!

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