Tribe Trades Mujica

The Deal
Spring is in the air, which means that teams face tough decisions on players who are out of options. Keep them and perhaps they’d only occupy a roster spot that, in the short term, could be used for a more deserving player; attempt to send them back to the minors and they have to clear waivers first. But, then, they’re on the 40-man roster in the first place because they have big league potential, and no club wants to risk losing a useful player (for nothing) a year too early. What’s a team to do?

Often the best recourse for teams faced with this dilemma is to trade the out-of-options youngster to a club that values his upside. The Padres traded for (another) such player, Indians righthander Edward Mujica, to help fortify their bullpen. Cleveland receives a player to be named or cash considerations from San Diego.

The Padres traded for Eulogio de la Cruz, who also was out of options, earlier in the week. The Padres also have added righthanded relievers Duaner Sanchez, who signed as a free agent after being released by the Mets, and Luke Gregerson, who joined the organization as the player to be named in last winter’s Khalil Greene trade.

The Young Player
Mujica, 24, hasn’t exactly made the most of his big league opportunity, racking up a 6.04 ERA in 70 relief innings split over the past three season. In his most extensive work last year, he went 3-2, 6.75 in 33 games, racking up 27 strikeouts, 10 walks and five home runs allowed in 38 2/3 innings. Not exactly closer material, but that didn’t stop manager Eric Wedge from inserting Mujica into the ninth-inning role in August. He went 1-0, 12.86 in seven games that month, blowing two saves and giving up a pair of homers in seven innings of work. Mujica, whom Cleveland signed out of Venezuela in 2001, does have his virtues. His fastball sits at a firm 92-95 mph and his splitter has shown promise in the past. It’s just that with flyball tendencies, no major league track of success against either righthanded (.857 OPS) or lefthanded (.854) batters and no effective breaking ball or changeup, Mujica has little margin for error.

We’ll analyze the player headed to Cleveland as soon as he’s announced.

Quick Take
Mujica has posted nifty strikeout-to-walk ratios in both Triple-A (100-to-24 in 97 innings) and Double-A (50-to-14 in 53 innings), so he’s not a pitcher without promise. And as it has for written-off relievers discarded by other teams—notably Heath Bell and Cla Meredith—a move to forgiving Petco Park may be just what Mujica needs to get over the hump and start trusting his stuff.

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