The Cardinals just traded Zach Cox for Edward Mujica which naturally produced a “They did what to whom for how many cows?” response. Obviously, this was not the megadeal many in Cardinal Nation were looking for, but it certainly has potential to be significantly better than nothing. For the record, Cox was not exactly tearing up PCL pitching at Memphis, and his .254/.294/.421/.716 line with 9 HR and 30 RBI in 84 games probably translates to something slightly less spectacular than an impact bat at the major league level. Of course, swapping a guy who was the 25th overall pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft for a mediocre reliever sounds disappointing at first blush.
Just give it a moment. The Cardinals never actually found a replacement to fill the Kyle McClellan role in the bullpen. Now, I doubt anybody expects Mujica to put up the 2.27 ERA and 1.075 WHIP that K-Mac gave the team in 2010, but Mujica could be the K-Mac of 2011 that yielded a 4.14 ERA as a reliever and was useful in spots. Mujica brings a 4.38 ERA and 1.154 WHIP with him to St. Louis, but he could be incredibly useful against RH hitters. For the season RHB have a .211/.265/.329/.594 line with a .206 BAbip against Mujica.
Edward Mujica could be the only “ROOGY” on the staff, and he would complement Marc Rzepczynski, Barret Browning, and Brian Fuentes nicely. This combination could address one of the biggest concerns the team has had this year by reducing the exposure of Rzepczynski to right-handed hitters. Mujica also provides a nice change of pace as a contrast to relievers like Trevor Rosenthal, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte who all throw mid-to-upper 90’s. Mujica’s low 90’s fastball sets up a really good slider, and he has the ability to pitch low in the zone. Given his pitching style and pitching split against RHH, he seems like a good fit. Just think of him as a slightly more expensive version of what the Cardinals had hoped to get out of Fernando Salas this season (minus the kidney stones).
The final key to this deal consists of the money, because savvy deals often come down to just that factor. Mujica will become 2nd-year arbitration eligible after this season. Considering he’s making $1.625M for 2012, the pay increase for 2013 should keep him relatively affordable for the Cardinals. That fact could give GM John Mozeliak plenty of options during the offseason, and Mujica could perform well enough to have some trade value. As with all deals, this one requires the luxury of time and space to evaluate, but don’t be surprised if Mujica ends up providing a solid return for this season and works out to be a more valuable trade chip than Zach Cox in the future.
Sometimes it’s all about the deals you make, and sometimes it’s about the ones that do not get made. Mo potentially solidified the big league bullpen by giving up a weak-hitting corner infielder from AAA. Though subtle, it could prove to be important, and the fact that he didn’t give up a top prospect says a lot about how the organization values the farm system.
Just give Moo-he-cah a chance.
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