I’m not saying Jesse Crain made no sense for the 2014 Chicago Cubs, but, after picking up Pedro Strop, Jose Veras, Justin Grimm and Wesley Wright in the past six-ish months, coupled with second half emergence of Blake Parker and Hector Rondon, the Cubs’ bullpen is projecting to be in much better shape this April than it was last April. Adding Crain to the mix would have been interesting, to be sure, but a tricky fit. There was a rumor that the Cubs were considering him.
In the end, there’s no tricky fit to be contemplated, as Crain has signed with his hometown (well, college) Houston Astros on a one-year deal. Terms of the agreement haven’t yet been released, but it would make sense if there was a low base salary involved, and a number of incentives. Crain is coming off of a serious shoulder injury that ended his dominant 2013 season early, and might cause him to miss a little time to start the 2014 season. He’s probably looking to rebuild his value in a year with the low-leverage Astros before hitting the open market again for a bigger score.
At this point, when it comes to the bullpen, I wouldn’t expect the Cubs to add anyone on a guaranteed deal (unless a trade precedes such a signing), and they might not pick up many more minor league deal/non-roster invite types – they’ve already got several. You can bank on a couple of those types near the end of the offseason, as they can’t find big league deals, but that’s probably all we’ll see the rest of the way in the bullpen.
The caveat here is that, if and when the Cubs add another starting pitcher – Masahiro Tanaka or a lesser option like Scott Baker – we’ll see guys like Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin ticketed for the bullpen, if they stick around for Opening Day.