Potential Players of Interest: Jesse Crain and Ryan Madson | The Process Report

Potential Players of Interest: Jesse Crain and Ryan Madson

In addition to big, but flawed arms, the Rays may target a few injured relievers as they round out the plans next year’s bullpen. Pitchers like Joaquin Benoit and Juan Cruz have found success — albeit different levels — pitching for Tampa Bay after lost seasons due to health. Juan Carlos Oviedo is hoping for the same. Aside from Oviedo, here are some more candidates that may be on the team’s health watch.

The Rays acquired Jesse Crain from the White Sox at the trade deadline despite the fact that he was already injured. The hope was Crain could be rehabilitated in time for the stretch run and the playoffs. He was activated from the disabled list in late September, but did not throw a pitch and was back on the DL within days.

Crain was one of the best relievers in baseball during the first half of the 2013 season. The 32-year-old allowed just three earned run in 36 2/3 innings while striking out nearly one third of batters faced. He walked just 10 unintentionally and had yet to see a ball leave the yard before a shoulder sprain ended his season in early July. The former Twin is no stranger to shoulder issues, having undergone surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff in 2007.

When Crain signed with the White Sox three years ago he was mostly average. However, further trust in his slider (at the expense curveballs and fastballs) buoyed his strikeout rate to upper echelons. The slider lives in the mid-80s with the heater coming in around 10 mph higher. The other breaking ball is thrown in the low-70s and there is a splitter in the mix.

Those who say the Rays gave Chicago two players and cash in exchange for nothing, while technically correct in terms of on-field production, are discounting the inside track the Rays may have gained on Crain’s impending free agency.

Aside from the value of clubhouse relationships and comfort level with coaches, Tampa Bay’s medical staff has first-hand knowledge on the health of his right arm. Crain should also take solace in working with one of the best medical groups in the game. The sum of all parts could leave Crain looking to settle up his unfinished business with the organization; perhaps at a reduced rate.
Andrew Friedman has landed some of his white whales (Luke Scott, Yunel Escobar, David DeJesus, etc) in recent seasons. After two years of asking, maybe he will land one of mine: Ryan Madson.

Madson last appeared in a major league game in 2011. That season he served as closer for the Phillies and was set to cash in on his newfound closer’s mentality as a free agent in the winter. The market crashed on Madson, who accepted a one year-deal with the Cincinnati Reds for $8.5 million.

The right-hander was sidelined in camp with an elbow sprain that quickly turned into Tommy John surgery which effectively ended his career with the Reds. The new scar did not prevent him from scoring a guaranteed deal last winter. He signed a modest one-year deal with the Angels for $3.5 million. Once more, his career in Los Angeles ended without a pitch thrown for the big league club as the elbow issues never subsided.

Two years, two surgeries, two organizations and $12 million dollars later, Madson is likely out of the business of guaranteed contracts. He is now 33 and what he has left is unknown.

The good news is Madson may be able to be successful even if his velocity does not return – though there is no reason to think he won’t. Previously he threw in the low-to-mid 90s with strong control. He picked up cutter as a reliever. Meanwhile, going back to his days as a starter, Madson’s bread-and-butter was and is his changeup; a pitch thrown in the low-80s. There is little to suggest that off-speed pitch will not continue to be his chief weapon if/when he resumes his career. The larger concern will be his ability to control and command his arsenal.

Unlike Crain, the Rays hold no special advantage in regards to Madson other than organizational reputation. There is a non-zero chance that Madson has is no longer a viable option at the highest level. At the same time, there is a chance he is; a once elite relief ace with an elite pitch that should come at the price of lower-class talent.

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