Red Sox closer situation: Will it be Uehara, Mujica, or someone else?


Amidst plenty of lowlights in the 2014 Boston Red Sox season, the breakdown of Koji Uehara was salt in the wound. Manager John Farrell rode the 39-year old fireman like a Pony Express mailman; to no one’s surprise, the World Series hero didn’t last the season in the role. With Koji’s contract up and Edward Mujica, who filled in down the stretch, entering the second year of his Red Sox contract, there is plenty of speculation as to who will assume the role in 2015.

We asked the BSI staff: who should be the Red Sox closer in 2015?

Sean Sylver: Casey Janssen. Here’s a guy with experience closing games in the AL East whose strike-throwing track record absolutely fits what the Red Sox are looking for. He’s six years younger than Uehara and numbers don’t lie: 19-7 with 83 saves, a 2.99 ERA and a 3.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last five seasons (three as Blue Jays closer). He’s coming off a difficult 2014 where he struggled with a back strain, so he won’t command a big sack of money. And for those with concerns about his durability, that’s why you have depth: Mujica, et al.

Ryan Hathaway: Edward Mujica. This team should not sign a closer. Yes, I am saying good bye to the high fives. As much as Koji did in 2013, and even the first half of 2014, he proved that he could not survive the rigors of being a closer for a full season. Mujica is a risky choice, but I have a contingency plan in place: the team should attempt to recreate their model from 2013, signing a top quality reliever who has the potential to close. That player should be Luke Hochevar, the former Royals top draft pick.

Hochevar has stopping power, and can work in the middle innings until he proves himself following Tommy John. Mujica looked great to conclude 2014, and I would give him some leash to start next year as closer since we are paying him $4.5 million. Rubby De La Rosa and Heath Hembree have already been pegged as having closer potential, so the team has plenty of options. I just don’t like the idea of giving two years to Koji, especially at $10 million per, and I don’t feel any better about doling out the big money to K-Rod, Rafael Soriano or David Robertson either.

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Rick McNair: Koji Uehara has had a nice six weeks of R&R and would be my favorite to resume his role as closer if he re-signs.  I would view Koji’s post-August 15th performance as a slump. Pitchers have them, also.  Second in line would have to be the man they invested a second year at  almost $5M in: Mujica. He polished off the second half with an ERA of 1.78, WHIP of 1.22 and six saves. Spring training could well represent a contest for the closer role. Another possibility would be Andrew Miller if the Red Sox offer enough incentive, such as three years/$22.5M. I would also consider the possibility of De La Rosa but the starting pitching is a bit thin so Rubby could be in that mix.  De La Rosa also appears better suited for a Wade Davis-type role. The core of young starters that had tryouts could eventually have one surface for a closer role but that would be a season or two away.

Drew Peabody: Edward Mujica. When the Red Sox signed Mujica before the 2014 season, he was insurance for Uehara. As the Red Sox fell out of the race in August, Koji started to show fatigue, getting hammered in five disastrous appearances in late August and early September (10 earned runs in 4.2 innings) before being essentially shut down in September (three appearances after September 4). Mujica was given the closer job and converted all five of his September opportunities (he had three before that). This was not a fluke as Mujica shined to a 1.78 ERA in the second half.  Since he is under contract for $4.75 million and has a proven record of closing, Mujica is my closer choice for 2015.

Joe Meehan: Koji Uehara, but with Mujica as a safety net. Koji was overworked this season, which led to a drop-off in production, but I’d still bring him back as closer to at least start the 2015 season. John Farrell just needs to be smarter about managing his innings, which is where Mujica could be important. Mujica posted a 1.86 ERA with five saves in September and was excellent after a rough April. He should be able to take over closing duties should Koji get injured or mismanaged once again.