Look at the facts: The Oakland Athletics are in last place. They have a $4.75 million reliever on the roster who saved 37 games for a National League pennant winner in 2013—and will be a free agent in 2016. The A’s also have a stable of young arms they need to assess during what’s left of the 2015 season if they’re going to have a better bullpen next year. So why keep Edward Mujica to close out meaningless games for the next two months?
Good question, but evidently that’s what the A’s are going to do, and it really doesn’t make any sense. A losing team doesn’t need an expensive closer, and what Oakland really needs is future promise—right now. While General Manager Billy Beane started the process last week by trading away valuable assets, he’s holding on to Mujica for some reason. That’s not the smart thing to do, period. As Oakland prepares for tonight’s game against Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, a closer probably won’t be necessary. However, there are 60 games left after tonight’s contest.
Mujica has a 3.31 career ERA as an NL reliever, significantly better than his mark in the AL (4.89). Surely, there has to be a team in the senior circuit that could use an extra veteran arm in the bullpen down the stretch this year. Tyler Clippard and his career 2.87 ERA primarily as a set-up guy just fetched a nice return from the New York Mets; is Mujica truly not worth something comparable from the Chicago Cubs or the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Either way, why keep a guy with a 4.89 ERA in the AL as your interim closer when you need to test out other arms on the roster to assess whether they are worthy of a roster spot in 2016? That part of the choice doesn’t make any sense, either. Look at the current arms in the bullpen now capable of closing, perhaps: Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez or Fernando Abad. All those relievers have flaws, but the coaching staff can work with them to see if they should even bother with these three guys come spring.
(The only logical assumption is that Beane and Manager Bob Melvin believe Sean Doolittle will return to form in 2016, but that’s a risky proposition considering he’s missed almost the entire 2015 season so far.)
Look at Scribner: His walk-to-strikeout ratio is downright nasty (four walks, 51 Ks), but he’s given up 11 home runs in just 48 1/3 innings. The A’s need to know if they can teach Scribner to keep the ball down more in the zone, thus limiting the long-ball mistakes. If he could, suddenly Oakland has a nasty weapon for the ninth inning in 2016. The 30-year-old righty had given up just 10 HRs in his career prior to this season in just under 90 innings, so if the A’s staff can’t fix the issue, they shouldn’t be coaching major-league pitchers.
Rodriguez has good stuff as well: At age 31, he’s not young, but in limited use the past two seasons in Oakland, he’s done a solid job. Over 39 innings since 2014, Rodriguez has allowed just 26 hits and 11 walks while striking out 42 batters. Those are closer numbers, and he’s never given up a home run in an A’s uniform, either.
The lefty Abad is 29, and he’s been very good for Oakland during his time here, too: He struggled earlier this year, but overall, his numbers are similar to Rodriguez’ stats. In 83 2/3 innings in an A’s uniform, Abad has given up just 56 hits and 22 walks, and he’s struck out 76 hitters. Those are very good numbers, and his left-handed delivery balances out the other righties noted above.
These three guys have the potential to form a lights-out trio at the end of the game, given proper instruction, nurturing and opportunity. Instead, Beane and Melvin are going to let a free-agent-to-be reliever get the meaningless opportunities over 60 meaningless games to end the season. It makes no sense whatsoever from an organizational standpoint to let that happen. If you’re building for 2016, then build for 2016 all the way.
(Just for the record, the combined salaries this year for Scribner, Rodriguez and Abad is just $2.24M … total.)
So come on, Billy Beane: Save money and trade Mujica for another young prospect. Otherwise, you’re still going to have a crappy bullpen in 2016, too, and that’s why you didn’t make the World Series in 2003, 2012, 2013 and 2014—or don’t you remember?