Jose Mesa; What Are The Phillies Options?

In the first part of this story, we identified closer Jose Mesa as a potential major problem for the Phillies. The plan now is how do we fix it? We can struggle through and hope Mesa stays strong. We can mix in other relievers who are already here and hope things will work out. Or, we can look for "other alternatives" through a trade. It might be that the last option is our best option and may be the one that we need to pursue.

So, if we've decided to bring in someone else to be our closer, we'll need to do something with Jose Mesa. Keeping him around while someone else takes his job isn't an option, since his personality won't allow him to accept a lesser role. That means we need to find a closer elsewhere and find another team that we can dump – uh, trade – Mesa to.

Let's start by looking to our north. The Boston Red Sox are working with a committee to close games. Their bullpen has just two saves so far this season and two different pitchers have recorded those saves for them. Their next bright thought is to convert former Phillie Robert Person to a closer once he's back from a rehab assignment. It worked for John Smoltz, so why not Robert Person, right?

With that as their option, they might be interested in Jose Mesa. The perfect move would be Mesa for Trot Nixon. It would give the Phillies a veteran centerfielder and give Boston their closer. Probably not going to happen though, since the Marlins had their heart set on prying Nixon away from Boston and the Sox wouldn't budge. Of course, being in a pennant race and not having a closer might change Boston's way of thinking, so it's at least worth a phone call from Ed Wade to Theo Epstein.

No sense really looking to trade a closer for a closer. That's not going to make much sense since other teams that might trade a closer wouldn't necessarily want a closer in return. That means a three-team deal, which Ed Wade is not known for doing. Therefore, two separate trades are probably more likely; one to send Mesa elsewhere and one to get our closer.

Let's say we can deal Mesa to Boston and we're now in the market for a closer. Later in the season, there may be teams that fall out of contention that might deal a closer. Pittsburgh could be one of those teams. Mike Williams coming in from the bullpen would look better than Jose Mesa, even though Mesa's colored gloves are kind of cool. If Pittsburgh doesn't hang around in the Central, although, it's possible that they will stay in contention, Williams might be available. Colorado's Jose Jimenez is another possibility that would fit in this category.

How about getting a veteran guy with closer potential? It's risky, but the fact that Jose Mesa is risky, is the whole reason that we're exploring options, right? Have you noticed what's going on in San Francisco? Robb Nen is out and Tim Worrell has been more than solid in the closer's role. Nen has saved five games – a career high – and has a 2.35 ERA. When Nen returns, Worrell the Giants need Worrell as a set up man, right? Maybe not. With Worrell as the closer, Jim Brower has been shutting people down as the set up man for Felipe Alou. Would the Giants send Worrell east once Nen is back? They just might. The Giants might need outfield help or a nice bat off the bench. Something involving Ricky Ledee or possibly Jason Michaels might be of interest.

It's impossible to say what a team would want in return for a player. After all, things change. Boston was very proud of their closer-by-committee plan over the winter and now, they're talking about Person doing a John Smoltz impression. Nixon was untouchable, but will he be when the Evil Empire is making things tough on Boston? It would just be a matter of seeing what the other guy wants and if they have interest in what we've got. Keep an eye out though, because it's possible that things could get interesting in the Phillies bullpen and on the other end of Ed Wade's phone line.


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