Astros sign RHP Jesse Crain to 1-year, $3.25 million contract

USA TODAY Sports

Houston has added yet another piece to its revamped bullpen.

Update (Fri Jan. 3): Crain's deal is worth $3.25 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. That makes him the third-highest-paid player on Houston's roster.

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The Houston Astros have signed free-agent reliever Jesse Crain to a one-year deal, the team has announced. The financial terms of the agreement are unknown.

Crain, 32, is the third righty reliever with close ties to Houston that the team has inked to a major-league deal this winter. Recent signees Chad Qualls and Matt Albers were both drafted by the Astros in the early aughts and started their careers with the club, while Crain spent his college years at the University of Houston. All three have homes in Texas.

Crain has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the last three seasons -- he owns a 2.10 ERA in 150 IP since 2011 -- but missed a good chunk of 2013 with a shoulder strain in his throwing arm. The Rays took a chance on him at the trade deadline in a conditional deal with the White Sox, but his arm never got to a point where he could take the mound for them. Crain underwent surgery in October to address the inflammation in his biceps, but passed his physical with the Astros and is expected to start a throwing program in a few weeks, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.

The Astros laid claim to the worst bullpen in baseball last season, and it wasn't even close. Opposing batters put up an 818 OPS against the Houston reliever corps overall, and hit .264/.363/.446 in "late-and-close" situations, well beyond the AL average of .248/.314/.370. The additions of Crain, Qualls and Albers -- along with the smaller adds like Anthony Bass, Raul Valdes and Darin Downs -- might not make Houston's bullpen great, but it should certainly help some.

Crain is expected to be one of many candidates vying for the Astros' closer gig when camp breaks in February, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. He has just four saves to his name during his 10 years in the bigs, but even that low number is good for second most on the club behind Chad Qualls, so it shouldn't keep him from getting real consideration. Last year's Opening Day closer, Jose Veras, had just five career saves going into the year, so employing Proven Closer™ doesn't appear to be a concern for manager Bo Porter.

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