COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals are in the midst of a very competitive race to win the National League Central, along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.
With just two weeks remaining in the season, all three teams look like locks to, at minimum, make the playoffs as the division winner gets sorted out. But would the St. Louis Cardinals be in the conversation without the contributions of closer Edward Mujica?
Mujica was thrust into the closer's role, which had been vacated by the injured Jason Motte, who was lost for the season before it ever began with a torn UCL. Mujica was not the first choice, but after Mitchell Boggs failed to lock down the job, Mujica came in and stabilized the ninth inning and the rest is history.
The 29-year-old has been one of the best and most consistent closers across baseball all season long and is absolutely the one free agent the St. Louis Cardinals should do everything within their power to bring back for 2014 and beyond.
Mujica, who was selected as an All-Star after teammate Adam Wainwright chose not to participate, has posted a 2.19 ERA, 0.859 WHIP and has converted 36 saves while blowing just three all season.
Mujica has been nails. He has thrown strikes. He has walked just three guys in 61.2 innings, which is an incredible ratio and exactly what you want from a closer. Good closers do not issue free passes, and Mujica fits the mold.
Mujica has been nasty, too, with his very difficult to understand "vulcan changeup." Mujica has struck out 44 hitters and while his 6.4 K/9 is not an earth-shattering number when compared to other closers, it is enough to keep opponents honest and keep them thinking as opposed to stepping into the box ready to pounce on his low-to-mid-90s fastball.
All of this is why Mujica is the one pending free agent that the St. Louis Cardinals should bring back in 2014.
Most Cardinals fans will say that 36-year-old switch-hitter Carlos Beltran should be the priority, and bringing Beltran back in 2014 would be nice as well.
But Mujica is of most importance, and here is why:
Mujica has proved that he can handle the pressure of the ninth inning. Not everyone is capable of closing. It takes a mentally tough competitor, with plenty of talent, to close the door with everything on the line, and Mujica is that kind of guy.
Sure, the Cardinals have other potential candidates to close in 2014. Rookies Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist have shown wicked stuff and have been consistent all season long in their roles, too. But how will they react if pushed into the closer's role? Rosenthal, in particular, would like be very good as a closer, but until he does it, you just do not know.
Motte is another guy that could close in 2014, too. But coming off of Tommy John surgery, do the Cardinals really want to rush Motte into that high-leverage role from Day 1?
Mujica has arguably been as important to this year's Cardinals team as anybody else, including legitimate MVP candidates Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina, to go along with ace starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. Without Mujica closing in the ninth inning, who knows if a different option would have been found and how many games the Cardinals could have potentially dropped.
It may cost the Cardinals some extra pennies, but for the assurance of having a guy that can pitch successfully in the ninth inning, the price will be worth paying. The Cardinals should bring back Edward Mujica in 2014.
Corey Rudd is owner/editor of StlSportsMinute.com and co-host of Fan Interference on CBS Sports 920 AM in St. Louis. Rudd also writes about the St. Louis Cardinals and Missouri Tigers football team as a contributor for Yahoo Sports. You can follow him on Twitter here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Edward Mujica