White Sox, Rays work deal for reliever Crain
Chicago still scouting Tampa Bay system for players to be named
CLEVELAND -- Jesse Crain had heard rumblings of a possible move from the White Sox to the Tampa Bay Rays over the past few days, also moving from last place in the American League Central to the heart of the playoff race in the process.
It wasn't until Monday evening, though, that the deal became official.
"You never know until it happens," said Crain, speaking in the White Sox clubhouse at Progressive Field before taking an evening flight out of Cleveland to join the Rays in Boston. "Anything can happen to block that. But to know I had an idea it was going to happen, just don't want to go all in until I know it's for sure. Now that it is, I'm excited.
"Especially when you don't play, you have nothing else to think about except getting better and seeing what's going to happen so it's been a long couple days, just with your mind racing. But it's worth it in long run."
Crain has not pitched since June 29 due to a right shoulder strain, but is expected to return to the mound in August. The right-hander has produced an All-Star caliber season, setting a franchise record with 29 straight scoreless appearances and featuring a 1.15 ERA overall in 36 2/3 innings.
The White Sox included cash considerations in the Crain trade. They will receive players to be named or cash depending on Crain's performance with the Rays, within six months of the trade.
"This is obviously a complicated one for everyone to analyze given that there are still some unknowns," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn during a Monday conference call. "There's a pool of players that [Rays executive vice president of baseball operations] Andrew Friedman and I have discussed.
"We're going to continue to cross-check the players over the coming weeks and months and actually we'll come to an agreement as to what's appropriate compensation for Jesse. It required a fair amount of creativity and trust between the two clubs and given our relationship with them it was fairly easy to ultimately come to an agreement that we felt would make sense for both of us going forward."
When asked about the level of prospects potentially available to the White Sox from the Rays, Hahn declined to elaborate until the deal is complete.
"We feel good about some of the players in the mix, but we're going to continue to scout them and I don't think it's fair to characterize them," Hahn said. "We're still gathering information and at the same time I don't want to put unrealistic expectations on some or even to sell them short."
There's no question Crain's injury played a role in the unknown return and basically caused Hahn and the White Sox to come up with such a creative deal. Crain arguably was one of the best relievers in baseball during the first half of the season, if not the best.
But his shoulder injury and minor rehab setback at the end of last week reduced Crain's market value. Moving Crain in this setting, prior to Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. CT, still was the better alternative to waiver wire options in August for the free agent to be.
"Then we'd have the decision to make: could we negotiate a fair deal with that club or just pull back the waiver request and keep him into his free agency?" said Hahn, going on the assumption that Crain would be claimed off waivers. "That was not a very appealing alternative when compared with negotiating a deal now prior to the Deadline and with the complexities involved in what's fair compensation for a guy currently on the DL.
"If he's healthy for the month of July and healthy right now, it probably would have been a very different dynamic. Keep in mind a lot of clubs are interested in acquiring guys for October. There's also a lot that need him ready for Aug. 1 and ready to contribute to the pennant race starting on Day 1. So, I do think him being unavailable for the start of August hampered his market to an extent."
With the right time to rest and on the right program, Crain is confident he'll be ready to go soon and could start throwing this week. He's looking forward to jumping into the competitive world of the AL East, but also will have fond memories of his time in Chicago.
"Great, great teammates. Great city. I had an organization that's been amazing to me," Crain said. "They brought me in here for three years and treated me unbelievably. I think I got better over three years here, for sure. It's time I'll never forget. I just realized how many people have come through the White Sox organization. So it's pretty cool to be a part of that.
"I'm going to miss these guys. One of the best groups I've been around. But I'll stay in touch with a lot of them, and it's just part of the game. You move on with a new set of guys."