What Are the Options for a Red Sox Closer?

The Red Sox season took another unfortunate turn when the team found out that closer Koji Uehara will miss the rest of the season on Monday. Uehara was struck by an Ian Kinsler line drive in the series against the Tigers over the weekend, and fractured his wrist as a result.

This is just the latest in a series of unfortunate events this season, and takes a toll on a Red Sox closerRed Sox bullpen that is already struggling. It also takes one of the team’s more reliable pitchers out of the equation for the rest of the year, as Koji will end this season with 25 saves and a 2.23 ERA in 43 appearances.

While Koji had a rough spell towards the end of last year, he’s been one of the most consistent relievers the Red Sox have had over the past couple of seasons, and this presents a tough situation for the Red Sox.

ESPN said that manager John Farrell had mentioned Junichi Tazawa and Jean Maichi, who the Red Sox acquired off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, as short-term replacements for Koji Uehara, while the empty roster space also allowed the team to call up Ryan Cook from Pawtucket. The Red Sox acquired Cook from the Athletics on July 31st at the trade deadline.

Hopefully, this injury isn’t too serious for Koji and he’ll be able to return to the team for the start of 2016. Aside from being fun to watch when he’s on form, he’s also owed $9 million next season, the 2nd year of a 2-year/$18 million deal, so it would be nice to see him get back out there next season and earn that money.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter who they replace him with, since 2015 is a lost cause. Maybe they can use this as an opportunity to test out some young arms on the farm.

Edward Mujica to Serve as B Closer

edward mujica

Despite what some may say, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell seems confident that reliever Edward Mujica is still in the picture this season.
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A few weeks back, the possibility of him being traded was discussed, but Farrell said that he along with Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Alexi Ogando would make of the core of Boston’s bullpen.edward mujica

If anything were to happen to Koji Uehara, the skipper pointed out that Edward Mujica would close out games, or if the soon-to-be 40-year-old just needs a night off.
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Currently, Mujica is serving out his final year of a two year contract which may come as a surprise after how poorly he pitched early on last year.

For Mujica, the 2015 season truly was a tale of two cities, after surrendering ten earned runs in nine innings pitched back in April, he closed out the first half of the season with a 5.45 ERA in 35 outings.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Mujica stepped up his game and really turned things around late in the season, posting a 1.78 ERA in the second half last year. In his final 29 games of the year, he surrendered just five earned runs in 25.1 frames and notched six saves in just as many attempts.
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With the last two spots in the bullpen up for grabs, Robbie Ross Jr., Anthony Varvaro and Brandon Workman all look to make an impact in later innings, but do not count LOOGY Tommy Layne and knuckleballer Steven Wright out of the competition just yet.

While Ross and Varvaro have the advantage in terms of big league track record, Ross does have two options remaining and Varvaro can be dealt if it comes down to it.
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At this point, it would make sense that one of the remaining bullpen spots goes to a lefty and while Varvaro is not a lefty, southpaws are hitting .196 off of him in 270 at-bats, so he and Ross are likely fighting for one spot while Brandon Workman might just slide his way onto the team unopposed.

Can the Red Sox Trust Koji Uehara?

koji uehara

Starting in July of 2013, there was a stretch where Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara appeared to be immortal. Rounding out the 2013 regular season by allowing just one run in his final 29 appearances, he took on the role of closer and had one of the most dominant stretches in big league history.
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Dominant, for Uehara, carried over well into the post-season where he was flawless once again and into the 2014 regular season. By June 16th, his ERA stood at a minute 0.57 and while the rest of the team was mediocre at best, he was still absolutely dominant.

After that date, he was still an excellent closer, one of the best in the league, but he startedkoji uehara to prove his one major flaw—he was mortal.
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Late in the year, Uehara who had been used to a much lighter workload, started to show signs of fatigue as he had a few suspect outings from August 16th onward. From that point in the season forward, he surrendered ten earned runs in his final 7.2 innings of work on the year, nine appearances in total.

Blowing three saves in that time span without recording a single one, he was demoted out of the closer role in favor of Edward Mujica, who was a perfect six for six in save opportunities from August 13th until the end of the season.
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Set to turn 40 years old before Opening Day this season, Uehara might pose a question mark for Boston headed into the 2015 season as he is getting up there in age and struggled quite a bit late in 2014.

What seemed to be the problem last year is that Boston used him too much over the past two seasons; he logged 152.1 frames out of the bullpen (playoffs and regular season) in 2013-2014. The previous two years, he went just 103.1 innings.

As of now, the Boston Red Sox still have a plan B in Edward Mujica, but they might be apt to deal him this spring if they are confident in Uehara. Hopefully, they hang onto Mujica—just in case they need him.
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If not, trading for Jonathan Papelbon is always an option…

Edward Mujica Red Sox Closer Of The Future?

edward mujicaNow if one read that title in either April or May, I would immediately be questioned for use of crack. It is now September and a lot has changed since the start of the 2014 season. Koji Uehara is no longer invincible, Brock Holt is no longer batting .350, and Edward Mujica is pitching like he did back in 2013.

On Thursday September 11, Boston Red Sox pitcher Edward Mujica earned his fifth save of the year in place of former closer Koji Uehara. Since the All-Star break, Mujica’s 2.11 ERA in 25 appearances suggest he is not the horrific pitcher he was early on in the season. Posting a 10.00 ERA in ten April outings, some people were ready to give up on him. Now however, this is simply not the case.
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Narrowly avoiding Mark Melancon syndrome, Mujica is no longer pitching poorly like he did at the beginning of the season. Before the break, hitters loved facing Mujica — now, not so much. They hit .319 off the righty beforehand and are now hitting .256 off him since. Although .256 does not scream dominance, Mujica pitches to contact more than most closers as his career K/9 is well below average for a closer — 7.09. He still experiences success nonetheless.

He does not however, come into the closer’s role without experience. Posting a 2.78 ERA in 65 outings last year, Mujica notched 37 saves in 41 opportunities for the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals suggesting that he has what it takes to close games in Boston.
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Right now, Edward Mujica has a golden opportunity to prove himself once again as a closer. With this season meaning nothing for the Boston Red Sox, it is clear Uehara will not be seeing the ball in the ninth again this season. With a few more sharp outings, Mujica will leave a good impression on manager John Farrell and the sky is the limit from there.

At this point, unfortunately Koji Uehara may be done for. He will turn 40 before Opening Day next season and has been ineffective as of late surrendering 11 earned runs over the last 4 2/3 innings he has tossed. It would be ludicrous for Boston to offer the Japanese pitcher a qualifying offer as many have suggested. A qualifying offer would give Uehara an excess of $15 million a year. Instead if Boston opts for Mujica, a cheaper option, they would be saving over $10 million a year.