The Cardinals have agreed to a minor league contract with one of their former closers, bringing righty Edward Mujica back to the organization on a minor league contract, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). The contract doesn’t contain an invitation to big league Spring Training, so Mujica will head directly to the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that the Octagon client would earn a pro-rated $750K base salary in the event that he does return to the Majors.
Mujica, 33, has thrown just 6 1/3 innings in the Majors since the end of the 2015 season — all coming with the Tigers last year. The results weren’t exactly pretty, as he served up four homers and seven runs overall, though he did strike out seven without issuing a walk. The right-hander’s work with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate last season was sound, as he delivered 56 innings of 2.57 ERA ball with 7.4 K/9 against a minuscule 1.4 BB/9 with a 39.5 percent ground-ball rate.
That said, Mujica hasn’t shown much in the Majors since a strong run from 2011-13 with the Marlins and Cardinals. Pristine control helped him to a 2.93 ERA through 206 innings in that frame, but Mujica’s pedestrian strikeout tendencies always led metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA to forecast some regression in his future — and that proved to be the case in 2014.
After signing a two-year deal with the Red Sox, Mujica turned in a solid but unspectacular 3.90 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 43 percent grounder rate in 2014. The 2015 season proved far worse, as he averaged just 5.7 K/9 against 1.3 BB/9 with a career-worst 1.9 HR/9 en route to a 4.75 ERA in 47 1/3 innings. Boston cut ties with Mujica early in the season, and he wasn’t much better after being picked up by the A’s.
At his best, Mujica induces an average or better number of grounders with elite control and limited punchouts. If his Triple-A work in 2018 mirrors that of his fine output with Toledo in 2017, then it’s not hard to imagine him getting some innings in the Cardinals’ bullpen as injuries around the big league relief corps inevitably crop up. Mujica is hardly teeming with upside, but he’ll bring some experience to the Redbirds’ depth chart and can be reasonably expected to help keep their Triple-A bullpen competitive.