As the Diamondbacks putter along this off season with little action in regards to trades and free agency, we as fans are getting more and more antsy with each signing that doesn’t include the Snakes. When I started browsing the list of free agents that I thought may help the club improve on their .500 record from 2013, the first name that came to mind was Grant Balfour. However, since this has already been discussed by Tom Lynch here, I continued my search.
One glaring weakness from this past season was the team’s inability to close out games. It really was incredible to watch some of these games where J.J. Putz, Heath Bell and David Hernandez did everything they could to try to extend the evening. This is something that has to be addressed. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable eating the remaining $8+ million that is due to “The Heath Bell Experience” than I would have him in the bullpen. His fastball is flat and he’s out of shape. Put him in the Russ Ortiz category of bad Arizona contracts and move on.
I have confidence that Putz could be the man this year again just as long as he can remain healthy. He missed nearly all of May and June after a less than stellar April (4 BS & 4.26 ERA) and finished with his fewest amount of innings pitched since 2009 with the Mets (34.1). At the age of 37 on opening day in 2014, Putz still has the ability to close games for the Diamondbacks as he was excellent in the second half of 2013 after returning from the disabled list- but we should have a backup in place. David Hernandez, in my opinion, is not that guy. I love him in his eighth inning role just as I love Josh Collmenter in his long relief role and see no need to move either guy from where they are completely dominant (assuming Hernandez has cleaned up whatever was messing with him last year).
So, to get to my point, the free agent that I would like to see the D’backs target is Edward Mujica who has played his last one and a half seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals while posting a 2.27 ERA over 94 games and 91 IP. During this stretch the 29 year old Venezuelan closed out 37 games- all in 2013. He has also tossed a minimum of 64 innings in each of the past five seasons showing durability and extended success. However, while Mujica was lights out right through August, the right hander was absolutely crushed in September and lost his closer role just before the Cardinals began their playoff run. This, I believe, could be good for the D’backs.
Even though Mujica was certainly a big part of helping the Cardinals get into the playoffs, they showed the world that they’ve got another young flame thrower ready to step into the role in Trevor Rosenthal. Mujica made $3.2 million in 2013, a number the D’backs could easily absorb and would likely be much lower than what Balfour is searching for as well.
And if Putz is rock solid at the back end of the bullpen? Wonderful. You can never have too many arms out in the pen.
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