The Chicago White Sox continued their offseason overhaul today by signing reliever Jesse Crain and catcher Geovany Soto to minor league deals.
Both veterans receive an invite to big league camp as part of their pacts with Chicago.
Crain, 33, had the best run of his career with the White Sox from 2011-2013. In that three-year stretch he posted a 2.10 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, 205 ERA+, and a 10.6 K/9 rate over 156 games.
The right-hander was absolutely ridiculous in 2013 posting a .74 ERA, 1.145 WHIP, 575 ERA+, and a 46/11 K/BB ratio in 36.2 innings. The performance earned him a spot on his first All-Star team. Unfortunately, Crain wouldn’t participate as he was injured and on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain that he’d suffered in early July.
Despite being on the disabled list, the White Sox traded Crain to the Tampa Bay Rays on July 29, 2013; but he never pitched for the club.
Last offseason he signed a one-year deal with the Houston Astros – under the pretense that he would close for the club – but he began the season on the 60-day DL and never played a single game for the Astros.
If healthy, Crain could earn a spot in a Sox bullpen that is already crowded with right-handed relievers including: new closer David Robertson, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb, and Maikel Cleto.
Soto, 32, has regressed heavily from his early glory days with the cross-town Cubs that saw him take home Rookie of the Year honors and make his only All-Star team in 2008.
That season, Soto hit .285/.364/.504 with 35 doubles, 23 home runs, and 86 RBI in 494 at-bats.
In recent years, however, Soto has lost both his ability to hit for power and his penchant for consistently getting on-base. The loss of these two skills has accelerated his transition into a veteran backup catcher.
Over the last three seasons, Soto has “hit” a combined .219/.291/.381 with a grand total of 27 doubles, 21 home runs, 72 RBI, and 73 runs scored in 567 total at-bats.
If he makes the club out of spring training, he’ll backup Tyler Flowers who hasn’t hit much better than Soto in the big leagues, but does have tremendous power potential.
The White Sox have had a very busy offseason adding Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, Robertson, Melky Cabrera, and Emilio Bonifacio; and while neither of today’s signings are on par with those acquisitions, both – especially a healthy Crain – could play a role in the White Sox chances of reclaiming the American League Central.