Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
Posted 8:16 PM Updated 9:02 PM
By Brett Ballantini
All indications late Wednesday were that the Chicago White Sox had signed Minnesota Twins free agent reliever Jesse Crain to a three year deal.
The signing, first hinted at by the Chicago Sun-Times and quickly confirmed by Peter Gammons of the MLB Network, fortifies the Chicago bullpen with a live, veteran arm who looks to slip right into the right-handed setup slot vacated by J.J. Putz.
The White Sox bullpen now shapes up to feature Matt Thornton and Chris Sale in a combination of lefty setup man and closer and Sergio Santos and Crain as right-handed setup men. Tony Pena, once ticketed to fill the role Crain now occupies, may well resume a long relief role, with another long man, preferably a lefthander, pending.
Crain had a career year in 2010 for the Twins, pitching in 71 games and amassing a 3.04 ERA, with a career-best 62 strikeouts out of the bullpen and an 8.21 K9. Stats guru Bill James projects Crain to regress in 2011, with an ERA jumping up to 3.55 and his K9 rate falling below 7.0.
Crain fits well in a Chicago bullpen filled with power arms, and features a wicked slider that has made a fool of many a White Sox hitter in the past. However, Crain has a tendency to give up flyballs, which could have a much more dangerous effect in homer-happy U.S. Cellular Field than at the Metrodome or Target Field in Minnesota.
While the closers role is open for the 2011 White Sox, dont expect Crain to throw his cap into the ring, with a dismal career save percentage of .188.
While the move could signify Sale assuming a starting role in 2011 (the status of a rehabilitating Jake Peavy for April is still up for question), unless Chicago wants to insert Santos as its closer, the addition of Crain means little.
Both manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams have identified the likely 2011 closer as Sale or Thornton, and placing Sale in the rotation will leave Thornton (thus the likely closer) as the only late-inning lefthander in the bullpen. There is zero chance the White Sox will move forward with such an unbalanced relief corps.
Crain will join Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and likely Chris Sale in the back end of the Sox bullpen in 2011.