On the surface, Edward Mujica‘s 37 saves and 2.78 ERA in 2013 makes him a very attractive candidate in free agency this offseason. Teams searching for bullpen help will struggle to find a player that had as much success as Mujica did with the St. Louis Cardinals last season.
The bullpen for the Chicago Cubs was terrible in 2013 and the options right now are all question marks. Also, there is no obvious candidate to close games for the team. Because of their bullpen woes, I suppose Mujica would make some sense for the Cubs, but personally, I do not think that move would end well for them.
Chris Cotillo, of MLBDailyDish.com, cites sources who connect the Cubs, along with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles to Mujica. He states that “the market for late-inning relievers is evolving, and that it will likely peak during the Winter Meetings in two weeks.” He also goes on to say that Mujica will get a contract similar to the three-year, $15.75 million deal that Joe Smith signed with the Los Angeles Angeles.
I am a believer of building your bullpen from within. Hard-throwing pitchers who do not make it as a starter become nice bullpen pieces. You can build a bullpen completely of homegrown talent and inexpensive free agent options. I would much rather the Cubs spend $16 million on other parts of the team.
Not only do I not believe that it is usually not worth spending significant money on relief pitching, I think that Mujica specifically would not be a smart signing. While he has had some past success, 2013 was far and away the 29-year-old’s best season. He used to be a hard-throwing right-hander, but the past couple of seasons, Mujica has completely changed his style. He is much more of a finesse pitcher who relies on control and pitch movement. He gets a ton of groundball outs and predictably does not strike many guys out.
I just think that Mujica got a little lucky last season. His career BABIP is almost .300. Last season, it was .263. That worries me. Mujica did an incredible job of stranding runners on base in 2013. You could say that it was him pitching well, but if he would have had a few more hits fall in, and been around his career average BABIP, I imagine that he would not have stranded those runners and given up a ton more runs. Also, the Cardinals do an incredible job of evaluating pitchers. Them not being interested in Mujica is a huge red flag for me.
Mujica does have some nice qualities as a bullpen arm, but I would just rather see what the Cubs can put together internally. Guys like Pedro Strop, Blake Parker and Justin Grimm have impressive stuff and could lead a very solid bullpen if things come together nicely. When it comes to bullpen pitchers, give me the hard-throwing guy who can get a strikeout when you need it over the guy who relies on groundballs and good fortune.