When the Phillies opened April, the team had no clear closer. Opening Day in Cincinnati, David Hernandez unsuccessfully began the eighth inning, seeming to indicate that Dalier Hinojosa would get the save opportunity. Game two, Hinojosa came in for the save and promptly blew it. Saturday, game five, Jeanmar Gomez got the save opportunity earned his first save as a Phillie. Gomez has earned 11 saves since and now may be pitching himself out of town.
After 32 games, Gomez has 11 saves in 12 opportunities. That means he is on pace for a remarkable 56 saves. Of course, that number may be on the high side when it is all said and done. But with the offensive woes the Phillies are experiencing in 2016, Gomez figures to get many more chances throughout the season. The Phillies have 11 victories by one run, and probably will not outscore opponents substantially when they do win. Currently tied for the league lead in saves, Gomez is setting up to be a trade candidate on July 31.
For the Phillies, Gomez is a nice piece, but not necessarily one for the future. And if you have not noticed, the price for closers is astoundingly high in 2016.
The Phillies traded closer Ken Giles to much disappointment from Phillies fans this past offseason. But almost immediately Vince Velasquez has quickly changed many fans minds, even those who have not noticed that Mark Appel has been stellar at AAA Lehigh Valley and those who have yet to experience Thomas Eschelman or Jonathan Arauz yet. Brett Oberholtzer serves as the long-man in the Phillies bullpen.
Meanwhile, Craig Kimbrel went to the Red Sox for four players: outfielder Manuel Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra, infielder Carlos Asuaje, and pitcher Logan Allen.
With Gomez, the Phillies might be able to really help a contending team who has struggled. With prices through the roof, the Phillies could take advantage of the market and further stock the farm system with resources.
Who would close after Gomez is traded? On the roster right now, the Phillies could give Hector Neris the ninth inning. Neris earned his first big league save last week. Or, Andrew Bailey, an experienced closer who was scoreless in all but Sunday's outing could fill the immediate void. But whoever pitches now is not going to necessarily be the Phillies closer long-term.
Assigned to Lehigh Valley but on the seven-day disabled list, Jimmy Cordero is often mentioned as the closer of the future for the Phillies. Perhaps one of the Phillies' young starters will pick up the role since the starting rotation will be too full. One pitcher who probably is not the Phillies closer of the future is Gomez.
The Phillies signed Gomez as a free agent after he was non-tendered by the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Major League experience dating back to 2010 when he was a starter with the Cleveland Indians, Gomez will be a free agent after the 2017 season. Without a long-term deal but with next year included in the contract, Gomez may be particularly attractive to a team who needs relief help but is afraid to trade prospects for a player only with the club for just the rest of 2016.
Gomez has been a pleasant surprise to the Phillies in 2016. Still in rebuild mode, the Phillies could bring in a bigger prize: a return of prospects. Some prospects the Phillies have will not work out to be Major League players. So, the more the Phillies can accumulate, the more likely some of them work out. Gomez's emergence could be a trade opportunity they cannot pass up.