Just before the last gasp of 2013 gives way, your Houston Astros strike again. On Tuesday, the Astros announced they'd reached a one-year agreement with right-handed reliever Jesse Crain. The deal brings one of the top, if injury-prone, relievers to Houston and completes a dramatic overhaul of the bullpen.
From Houston's release on the signing:
Since 2011, Crain has been one of the top relievers in the Majors, posting a 2.10 ERA (35ER/150IP) in that span, which ranks tied for fourth in the AL. He also ranks tied for fourth in the AL with a .187 opponents average vs. right-handed hitters in that span. Additionally, his 10.56 SO/9IP ratio since 2011 ranks sixth in the AL (176 SO in 150.0 IP), while his 53 holds rank eighth in the AL in that time frame. Crain has recorded career lows in ERA in each of the past three seasons (2.62, 2.44 and 0.74, respectively).
"Jesse Crain is a proven, quality reliever that will help us win games in 2014," Luhnow said. "We targeted him early in the offseason and are excited to bring him on board."
Crain was traded from the White Sox to the Rays last season, but did not pitch an inning for Tampa Bay before hitting free agency. He was dealing with a shoulder injury, but appears to be healthy heading into 2014. He also appears to have the inside track at stealing Houston's closer job now and at least will be in competition with Chad Qualls and Josh Fields for the position in spring training.
Crain also has significant local ties, having attended San Jacinto College and the University of Houston. Which means he's automatically Brian McTaggart's favorite Astro.
I could gush about this signing a bunch. As I said on Twitter, when it came across the wire, I literally pumped my fist at the desk. He's the one free agent I could legitimately get excited about and Houston landed them. Kudos, Luhonw and Co. Enjoy your New Year's Eve parties tonight.