The Houston Astros and right-handed reliever Jesse Crain have agreed to a one-year deal worth an undisclosed amount, the club has announced. The 2013 All-Star is recovering from a bicep injury that led to surgery this past October.
Astros have signed free agent RHP Jesse Crain. Former U of Houston Cougar posted 0.74 ERA in 2013.— Houston Astros (@astros) December 31, 2013
After spending seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins from 2004 to 2010, Crain spent the past three years with the Chicago White Sox. A 10-year veteran, Crain has spent the entirety of his career in relief, where he has posted a 3.05 ERA (143 ERA+), 7.44 K/9, and 11.6 WAR in 532 innings pitched. The 32-year-old enjoyed a career-year in 2013, as he put up a phenomenal 0.76 ERA (586 ERA+) with a 2.4 WAR and 11.29 K/9 in just under 37 innings.
Unfortunately, Crain's stellar campaign was an abbreviated one, as he went down with bicep tendinitis in late June, an injury which led him to miss the remainder of the season. The Tampa Bay Rays did acquire Crain near the trade deadline in hopes that he would contribute down the stretch, but he failed to make an appearance for them.
The Astros and GM Jeff Luhnow had reportedly been targeting Crain since the beginning of the offseason, despite the question marks surrounding his checkered injury history. The fact that he passed his physical is a positive indication that he is getting better, but it still remains unclear if he will be ready be ready to join the club on Opening Day. He is expected to start a throwing program in the coming weeks.
A Toronto native, Crain played college ball at the University of Houston, a factor that may have led him to spurn a reported two-year contract offer in favor of a one-year, guaranteed deal in a familiar place.
Crain is a major addition to an Astros bullpen that was easily the worst in baseball in 2013. Among all 30 clubs, Houston's bullpen finished last in both ERA (4.92) and WAR (-5.4). The club has already made multiple moves to upgrade their staff this winter, as they signed both Chad Qualls and Matt Albers to free agent contracts earlier this offseason.
The Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs had been reported as potential suitors for Crain