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Just Say No

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The Pirates are considering bringing Jose Mesa back next year. Just like last offseason, this is a really bad idea. The Pirates will pay $2.5 million for Mesa's services this year - $2 million plus a $500,000 buyout. Despite Mesa's junk peripherals and the fact that he looks like he's about fifty (I don't mean to play the often unfair Latin-player-guess-the-age game, but just look at Mesa's face and try to convince yourself he's still in his 30s), he has posted a 3.76 ERA this year.

That's mediocre for a reliever, but it's only a half run higher than last year's, so expect the Pirates to pay him about $2 million again. That is too much to pay a player who is very likely to collapse (in the baseball sense and in the literal "I've fallen and I can't get up" sense), not very effective in the best of circumstances and only good for about sixty innings a year.

The management's reason for their desire to resign Mesa is depressing: "Management will be reluctant to have [Mike Gonzalez] open next season as the closer without some experience in the role."

Closing is not magic. This year, the Pirates' suddenly smarter cousins in Milwaukee flipped their established closer, Dan Kolb, for a good starting pitching prospect, then handed the closer's job to Derrick Turnbow, whose only previous claim to fame was testing positive for steroids. Turnbow has posted a 2.09 ERA for the Brewers this season, while Kolb lost the Braves' closer job. Turnbow's salary this year is $322,000.

The Pirates wouldn't necessarily be able to find a Turnbow if Mesa left, of course, but Mesa is no Turnbow himself. And anyway, the class of pitchers who are capable of closing is much larger than the class of pitchers who actually close, so dropping another $2 million for another 60 innings of work isn't the best idea. $2 million isn't a lot to pay a closer, it's true, but if you spend $1 million here and $2 million there, it adds up quickly for a team like the Pirates.

Also, if experience is the issue, Mark Corey is having a fine year as the closer for Class AAA Indianapolis. If Mike Gonzalez or someone else can't be trusted with the job, Corey could probably do a reasonable imitation of Mesa for the league minimum salary.