Is Edward Mujica’s strong second half indicative of things to come?


The second half resurgence of Edward Mujica has been music to the Red Sox’ ears. The right-hander has allowed just five earned runs over 29 appearances since July 11th and converted all four of his save opportunities since subbing in for Koji Uehara as Boston’s closer in the middle of August.

Signed to what was viewed as a reasonable two-year, $9.5 million contract during the offseason, Mujica was planned to be insurance for the veteran Uehara at the back end of the bullpen. Having closed 37 games himself for a pennant-winning Cardinals club last year before struggling with a groin injury down the stretch, the eight-year vet joined a strike-throwing relief corps in Boston set to defend the team’s World Series championship.

Yet, almost from the beginning, it was clear this year’s model was far different from last year’s Red Sox team. And Mujica didn’t exactly endear himself to the fan base with his early returns. He allowed 10 runs over nine April appearances, and though his ERA has crept steadily downward every month since, it became clear that John Farrell didn’t trust him in high leverage situations.

However, with Uehara’s struggles under Farrell’s heavy workload and lefty Andrew Miller’s departure at the trade deadline, Farrell’s hand was forced and he gave Mujica the bullpen keys. The righty’s strong performance since could create a dilemma for the team heading into 2015.

With Uehara set to test the free agent waters (the Red Sox could retain his services with a one-year qualifying offer somewhere around $15 million), the Red Sox have an opportunity to mull their options. The closer position won’t be the focal point of offseason activity (that would be starting pitching), but it still poses a quandary. Do the Red Sox bring back the popular Uehara? Import a proven commodity (like Jon Papelbon)? Or go into camp with Mujica and/or other options with closing experience (Sergio Romo, Casey Janssen) at a cost savings?

Bullpen indecisiveness has plagued the Red Sox before. Though the 2003 closer-by committee fiasco is the most prominent example, other Red Sox teams have struggled when confronted by an injury to a closer, a meltdown by previously reliable commodity, or the lack of a stranglehold on the position by one particular pitcher.

Though the Red Sox boast a trove of talented young arms, some of whom could be suited for a bullpen role, the team would be wise to fortify the ‘pen with a veteran (or two) this winter. Whether it comes in the form of a big splash or a couple of quiet additions, Red Sox fans have learned that you can never have enough depth in the relief corps. Edward Mujica, for his part, has at least made himself part of the 2015 conversation with his turnaround.