The Pirates’ bullpen has been terrific thus far. As of the now, the “Shark Tank” has the 7th best ERA, the 3rd most strikeouts, the 5th best BAA, the 4th best OPS, and the 3rd best save percentage. Starters can be confident that when they give the ball up with lead they’ll come away with a win. However, if you’re like me, then you probably shudder when you see guys like Tony Watson or Vin Mazzaro come out of the pen. This may or may not be fair, as they have each had their moments, but I just cant get comfortable when they’re in the game.
Whether you’re comfortable with the staff we have now or not, the fact remains that the bullpen is being worked hard and often. Pittsburgh relievers have pitched over 246 innings combined; only Toronto and Colorado have had more innings of relief pitching.
Last year, the Pirates’ collapse had a lot to do with pitchers tiring out. We have seen that Pittsburgh has tons of starting depth, but that doesn’t always translate into good relief pitching. Quality confident relievers are of a different mindset and makeup. They are often times undervalued, especially if they are not closers, but are crucial to a team’s success. Imagine the Pirates or the “Shark Tank” right now without the play of Mark Melancon. They wouldn’t be nearly as effective. What if the Buccos could add another dominant reliever to the team and bolster an already effective bullpen? Their top-five ‘pen could jump to number one, some pressure and innings would be taken off of Melancon and Grilli, and the Pirates would be able to continue to back up their starters. However, where would Pittsburgh acquire such a player? There just so happens to be that player on the market.
The White Sox reliever and future All-Star, Jesse Crain, should be available in the coming weeks. Crain currently posts a 0.60 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and has whiffed 39 in 32 innings of relief, At 31, this is by far Crain’s best season but he has always been a solid option in the back ends of games. The White Sox have been deeply disappointing this year, and do not have any hope of being in playoff contention. That, combined with one of the worst farm systems in the league, bodes that Chicago should be major sellers this summer. The Pirates have a lot of minor league depth, and while Crain might not come cheap, he won’t be terribly expensive, either. Crain is not a closer, nor has had closing duties in the past, so he shouldn’t break the bank. The White Sox are attempting to build up their farm system, especially with athletes. One possible player in the mix could be Harold Ramirez. Ramirez is a quality young OF with a lot of upside. The 18-year-old Latin American prospect has many tools but in a system that is stacked in the outfield, he could be blocked early and often. However, Ramirez could perhaps be seen as a top prospect for Chicago.
Crain has been lights out this year, and would instantly beef up an already great bullpen at a reasonable price. If that doesn’t sound enticing already, then know this: the hated Reds might be interested in the White Sox reliever as well. Blocking Cincinnati from acquiring another great arm is reason enough.