Phillies 2016 Bullpen Candidate: Edward Mujica

Feb 26, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Edward Mujica (44) poses for a photo during photo day at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2016; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Edward Mujica (44) poses for a photo during photo day at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen is undergoing major changes, and almost every role is up for grabs in the 2016 season.

All winter long here at TBOH, our David Mosemann has been profiling some of the holdover candidates who are battling to return to the big league bullpen this year. Now I’ll be picking the series up during spring training, looking at some of the new arms entering the competition.

The Phils organization has a recent history as being a place for relievers to come in order to start over and reset their careers.  During their not so distant 2007-2011 run of dominance, the Phillies brought in a number of such relievers who would reestablish themselves as dependable bullpen arms including Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Jose Contreras, Chan Ho Park, and others.

In 2016, new Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has made it a point to create depth both in the rotation and in the bullpen.  He was able to add a couple of veteran arms to the rotation via trade.

However, Klentak went a different route in building the bullpen: minor league deals with an invitation to spring training. Klentak’s low risk high reward signings could be a major part of the 2016 Phillies.

Well-traveled veteran Edward Mujica is one of the new bullpen candidates.  He will turn 32 years old in mid-May, and was first signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent back in 2001 out of his native Venezuela.

The right-hander has made stops in Cleveland, San Diego, Miami, Saint Louis, Boston, and Oakland.  In his nine-year career, Mujica has been traded twice previously.

He was sent from Miami to St. Louis in 2012 and performed well enough over the last part of the season to be brought back by the Cards for 2013 in a more important role.  Mujica became the Cardinals’ closer early on in that 2013 season, and he was able to record 37 saves.

The success he had in 2013 brought Mujica a $9.5 million contract from the Boston Red Sox during that subsequent offseason.  After an inconsistent 2014 season and a rough start to 2015, Mujica was designated for assignment, and ultimately traded from Boston to Oakland.

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His numbers would not improve over the course of the 2015 season.  With teams unsure of his abilities and decline concerns, Mujica found himself with a chance to reestablish value when the Phillies invited him to Clearwater this year.

So what now?  It appears as though righties David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez are the only sure things in the Phillies 2016 bullpen, due to each of their Major League deals.

Mujica will be in competition for one of what appears to be five remaining bullpen spots.  I would assume that two (perhaps three) of those spots will be lefties.  It is a crowded situation and there are not many chairs out in the bullpen in centerfield at Citizens Bank Park.

Mujica needs to get back to what made him so successful in St. Louis if he wants to win a job this summer in Philadelphia.  What made that success?  Mujica featured only two pitches during that run: a fastball and “changeup”, the latter of which was more of a split-finger fastball.

In 2013, he threw that splitter more than 65% of the time.  He has to rediscover the pitch that brought him to his only All-Star game if he is to come North at the end of March.

Mujica has only made one appearance so far in the early days this spring. It was a successful outing in which he did not allow a baserunner, striking out one.  I am discounting his appearance against the University of Tampa, because my gut feeling is that he was more than likely working on some stuff in the outing.

If he finds a spot on the roster, it is easy to imagine Pete Mackanin giving Mujica the chance to pitch the later innings for the Phillies.  His experience late in games gives him an advantage over some other names on the roster.  However, he will have to battle Hernandez for those situations.

The Phillies may be hoping for a resurgence from Mujica as they continue their rebuild.  Teams are always searching for help in the bullpen around that all-important date at the end of July.  Mujica would more than likely end up being one of the cheapest available arms on the trade market, and could bring a young piece back from a team desperate for bullpen help.

There is no doubt there will be many eyes on Mujica as he takes the mound over the next month.  With little room for error, the veteran with closing experience will need to be near perfect to find his way on to the Opening Day roster. The Phillies would happily take his experience to help navigate the final nine outs of the game.

Next: Phillies Grapefruit League: Week One