Cards Add a Bullpen Arm; Local Columnist Remains Unimpressed


The Cardinals did manage to make a deal today, adding Edward Mujica, a right-handed reliever, to their bullpen stable. Mujica was acquired from the Miami Marlins in return for Zack Cox, the Cards' first-round draft pick back in 2010. 

The good about this deal: Mujica is a reliever, and the Cards' bullpen has been, to put it lightly, a little on the shaky side for most of this season. The team with the best run differential in the National League is hanging around in third place in a mediocre division, and the reason has had plenty to do with relief losses piling up like crazy. 

The bad about this deal: Edward Mujica is not a very good pitcher. 


The other bad about this deal: the Cardinals managed to turn a former first-rounder, one who should have still carried along with him a fair amount of that first round cache, into a mediocre reliever who does very little but make it appear to the uninformed observer that the club is trying their best to improve the weakest portion of the team. 

Well, actually, in fairness, I suppose the Cardinal front office might be trying to improve the bullpen. If this is trying, though, I'm just not feeling real confident that things are going to work out this year. 

Don't get me wrong; I don't think Zack Cox is ever going to be a real high-quality major league third baseman. He has little usable power, his plate discipline is good enough but really no better than that, and his defense at the hot corner doesn't get real good reviews. (Personally, I've only seen him play live about twice, so I don't feel comfortable saying much about his glove from my own experience.) He seems to have very good contact ability still, meaning he might hit for a fairly decent batting average, but that's just about it. He doesn't bring a whole lot else to the table. In short, I think Cox was an okay selection in the draft a couple years back, just due to his polish and reputation, but he hasn't much turned into what the Cards were hoping he would. 

All the same, what John Mozeliak and the Cardinals picked up today in return just isn't very good. Mujica has a 4.51 FIP this season, is striking out just 6.00 hitters per 9 innings, and has actually been worth negative 0.1 wins this season. That's right; the Cardinals just went out and traded for a pitcher who has been below the level of performance one should, by definition, be able to find for free. 

Mujica was quite good in 2010 and '11, though his 2010 season was marred by an extraordinarily high home run rate. His best quality is the fact he rarely walks anyone; his walk rate in 2010 was an inhuman 0.78 BB/9. This year it's still good at 2.08, but between the falling strikeout numbers and propensity for giving up the long ball this just isn't a reliever who is going to come in and suddenly turn around the fortunes of the Cards' relief corps. 

There are still a few minutes left before the trade deadline actually passes, and maybe the Cardinals still have some eleventh-hour plan for brilliance up their sleeves. But I kind of doubt it, honestly. And this move isn't going to do a whole lot of good. 

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