Peter Gammons, now of the MLB Network and MLB.com, is reporting that free agent reliever Jesse Crain has reached agreement on a three-year contract with the White Sox.
Crain, 29, posted a healthy 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 71 appearances for the Twins this past year, fanning 62 batters and walking only 27 over 68 innings of setup duty. He may get a chance to save games in Chicago, a direct division rival of his former team.
The right-hander has improved the velocity of his fastball in each of the last four seasons, registering a 93.9 MPH average in 2007, a 94.1 MPH average in 2008, a 94.3 MPH average in 2009 and a career-high 94.8 MPH mark in 2010. It’s rarely wise to hand a three-year contract to a reliever, but Crain at least appears to be in his prime.
No word yet on the total worth of the agreement. Scott Downs got a three-year, $15 million from the Angels earlier this month and Joaquin Benoit scored a three-year, $16.5 million pact from the Tigers at the start of the offseason. It may be something similar.
UPDATE: Crain’s new three-year deal is worth $13 million, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. Not terrible, right?
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.