At 40 years of age, Jose Mesa is by no means a spring chicken. But even at that age, he’s proven that he can be an effective pitcher, and with that in mind, the Tigers will ink the righty to a one year deal worth approximately $2.5 million.
Mesa, who has more than 300 saves in his career, will likely move into a middle relief role for the Tigers, joining Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney as setup men to closer Todd Jones.
The signing comes as a bit of a surprise to many, as it was assumed that if the Tigers were going to add a reliever, it would be a left-hander, after Jamie Walker left the club for greener pastures earlier in the offseason, receiving a 3-year deal from Baltimore.
It is entirely possible that the Tigers elected to add another quality reliever to the club, rather than reaching for a left-hander that may or may not be serviceable.
Mesa’s batting average against was virtually identical last season against both right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters, with a .270 average against for lefties, and a .271 average against for righties.
While nothing is imminent, this could also be a signal that the Tigers are working on a larger deal that would involve at least one key member of the bullpen, and the Tigers wanted to jump at the chance to add a pitcher like Mesa in the even that the bullpen thins out because of a trade.
The Tigers could still look for a left-hander to work out of the bullpen, but they acquired Edward Campusano through the Rule 5 draft with the hope that he could possibly fill that role. In addition, both setup men had an average against under .200 against lefties, so they clearly did not struggle in getting guys hitting from the left side of the plate out.
In addition to his 320 career saves, Mesa has a career ERA of 4.27 that he’s put together over 18 seasons with seven different teams. Mesa was named the Rolaids Reliever of the Year in 1995, when he saved 46 games for Cleveland while posting a miniscule 1.13 ERA.