Scouting the Free Agent Market: Jesse Crain

Bullpen depth should be a high priority during remainder of offseason
MLB and NPB officially announce new posting system
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In the high and low search for bullpen depth, the Yankees should explore all angles. This includes closers, even though David Robertson is probably their best bet. It can also include guys like Joaquin Benoit, who can provide setup help and a safety net at closer. But adding just one arm, even a high-end one, probably won’t be enough. The Yankees would do well to add a couple of arms for the bullpen.

Jesse Crain’s name hasn’t come up very often this off-season, and for good reason. After a superb first half of the season, Crain suffered a shoulder injury that kept him off the field for the remainder of 2013. The Rays traded for him, and even activated him from the disabled list, but Crain’s shoulder just wasn’t ready. He’s now a free agent, for the second time in his career. The first time around he signed a three-year, $13 million contract that was roundly mocked at the time (as are essentially all reliever contracts, so pay no mind), but he pretty much lived up to it during his three years in Chicago.

Jon Morosi reports that Crain has multiple offers. Given their needs in the bullpen, it’s possible the Yankees are among the interested teams.


  • Crain has pure strikeout stuff, and it has seemingly developed since moving from Minnesota to Chicago. His mid-90s fastball helps set up a quality changeup, which he uses sparingly but effectively.
  • Despite having just his second go-round in free agency, Crain is just 32 years old. He could help the setup corps for a couple of years if healthy.
  • At the same time, he’ll probably only get a one-year guarantee, helping reduce risk.
  • Crain is absolute death to right-handed hitters, especially in the last two years.
  • During his three-year contract with the White Sox he produced a 2.10 ERA, 206 ERA+.


  • Crain’s shoulder injury is certainly of concern. He didn’t require surgery, which is a positive sign. This also isn’t his first shoulder injury. In 2007 he underwent surgery on both his labrum and rotator cuff.
  • Then again, he had a 3.16 ERA (143 ERA+) before the surgery, and a 2.98 ERA (143 ERA+) since.
  • Then again again, he missed 22 games with a shoulder strain in 2012 as well, so his health history isn’t looking great here.
  • In terms of production, the one downside is his walk rate, 3.5 per nine for his career. This is most pronounced against lefties: 4.55 BB/9 for his career, compared to 2.81 per nine against righties.

While Crain remains a risk due to his shoulder, he still warrants a look on a one-year deal. Even with his performances in the last two years and the demand on the market, it would take an especially crazy team to go beyond one year and a team option. That would seem to work for the Yankees, especially given 1) the weakness of the 2014 bullpen and 2) the probability that the farm system will soon produce some bullpen-ready arms such as Dellin Betances, Rafael DePaula, and Jose Ramirez. Crain could provide a nice one-year stopgap, albeit a risky one.

Bullpen depth should be a high priority during remainder of offseason
MLB and NPB officially announce new posting system
  • Cofuzz

    Get all the University of Houston Cougars!

    • vicki

      eat ’em up.

  • vin

    Sure, why the hell not? The more the merrier.

  • The Great Gonzo

    Free agent relievers always worry me. ALWAYS….

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      Free agent relievers always worry me. ALWAYS…


  • LarryM Fl

    OK I’m in on Jesse Crain. One year deal is fine with a team option. I give no money numbers because it is just a guess.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Betances I get. Ramirez has trouble staying healthy, so I kind of understand. But dang Joe, you’re already sending Rafael de Paula to the bullpen?

    Be wary Yankee minor league pitchers, one half of a bad season and you’re no longer starting.

  • Cofuzz

    I’m giving Vicky a three-fingered salute. No ring finger (that’s saved for Yankees.)

  • PFOJ

    Do it. Yankees have been dangerously short on Canadians since they let Martin leave.

    • Jersey Joe

      Good observation. We do have a problem on our hands.

  • CashmanNinja

    I’d be thrilled with Crain on a 1 year deal. Thrilled. He may have a risk for injury, but that’s also the case with a lot of pitchers. A short term contract would get rid of most of the risk because if he’s healthy he should perform well; if he’s not healthy then he won’t be on the team in the future. If we could get him for a reasonable amount then why not? It would be like when we got Luis Ayala a few years ago in my opinion, except he’ll be making more than $600k (probably no more than $4 mil though).

  • Jersey Joe

    Would like Crain for the setup role, along with maybe a second round of Ayala.

  • FLYER7

    Like those that want Musty and Noonie, I want Aceves