Perhaps the most undervalued piece on the St. Louis Cardinals’ run to the World Series in 2013 was Edward Mujica. He was one of the key breakout stars on a team full of them and was actually one of the better relievers in baseball last year before suffering a groin injury in September. That injury made him largely useless towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, leaving phenom Trevor Rosenthal to fill his shoes as closer. Rosenthal’s wowed viewers with his dominant stuff in the playoffs and rendered Mujica, a free agent to be, expendable.
After the Cardinals were the National League Champions with relatively few contributions from Mujica, he fell under the radar in free agency season. Gaining much less attention than a pitcher coming off a season which saw him post a 2.78 ERA and 37 saves should, the Red Sox were able to swoop in and sign Mujica to a surprisingly cheap contract of just 2 years/$9.5 million.
Mujica projects to slot in as a setup man in a stacked Red Sox bullpen. However, there are serious questions regarding whether or not the 30-year old will be able to perform at an elite level after moving from the NL Central to the offense-heavy AL East. Mujica’s trademark is his phenomenal control; he walked just 5 batters in all of 2013, good for 0.7 BB/9. This allowed him to post an otherworldly 9.20 K/BB despite a mediocre 6.4 K/9 rate.
While Mujica has always had great control– he has a career 1.4 BB/9 rate– it’s likely that he will walk more than 5 batters in 2014. If that rings true, then his low strikeout rate may not be enough to perform at the level that a setup man in this Boston bullpen should. On a similar note, Mujica is being paid to be a setup man as the $4.75 million that he will make in 2014 will be third in the Red Sox’ bullpen behind Koji Uehara and Ryan Dempster (who is really being paid as a starter).
Mujica has also gotten away with some exceptionally low BABIP’s in the last few seasons. He has not allowed a BABIP over .270 since 2009, where he allowed a .306 BABIP and was hit hard to the tune of a 3.94 ERA in San Diego. Moving to Boston, there are certainly concerns that Mujica could be hit hard and be forced from the setup role. However, with his walk rate he should still perform well enough to fit as a solid middle reliever and the Red Sox do have the depth to cover for him should that be the case. Hopefully, though, Mujica will continue his strike-throwing ways and stay as dominant in 2014 as he was with the Cardinals last season.