With the Chicago White Sox now 15 games under .500 and 10.5 games out of first place, it is now time to start looking toward the future. Today’s blog will be the first of a series of posts designed to examine some of the White Sox’ most attractive trade candidates and prospects. First up, Jesse Crain.

Jesse Crain – Right-handed reliever

Jesse Crain came to the White Sox as a free-agent prior to the 2011 season. The veteran set-up man signed a three-year, $13 million deal and has been a valuable member of the Sox’ bullpen ever since arriving on the south side. Since 2011, Crain has owned a 2.10 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 156 appearances. During those appearances, Crain has compiled 176 strikeouts during just 150 innings of work. Needless to say, Crain’s tenure in Chicago has been a success.

However, since the White Sox are no longer in playoff contention, Crain’s name has come up as a very likely trade candidate. Pitching in the final year of his contract, Crain has enjoyed his best season yet. Crain currently owns a 0.74 ERA and 1.15 WHIP on the season, and he now has 46 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 36.2 innings pitched. Those numbers are good for a career high 4.18 SO/BB ratio and ties his career high 11.3 SO/9 mark that he set in 2012. At age 31 (32 on July 5th), Crain still has a few good years left in his right arm and many teams will be vying for his services as the MLB trade deadline approaches.

Since Crain is set to become a free-agent after this season, many teams may not be willing to give up a lot for 2-3 months of a reliever. But, if Crain can help solidify a contending team’s bullpen, then the Sox might be able to find a team willing to over-pay to obtain the righty. Looking back at past trades, one trade stands out as being a comparable deal. In 2011, the San Diego Padres traded late-inning reliever Mike Adams to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland. Both Erlin and Wieland were considered two of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects, but they were willing to part with the pair to acquire Adams because he was still under contract through the 2012 season. Since Crain doesn’t have that extra year of control, the White Sox probably won’t be able to get two top prospects in a deal, but they should be able to acquire one top prospect. If the Sox want to get top value for Crain, they should be looking to trade him sooner, rather than later. A contending team might be willing to part with a better prospect if they can have Crain for three months, as opposed to just the final two months of the season.

-Eric Tichelbaut

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