A pitcher who could have possibly replaced Jim Johnson as the Orioles' closer came off the board on Thursday when the Boston Red Sox signed former St. Louis Cardinals reliever Edward Mujica to a two-year, $9.5-million deal.
The signing is like a punch to the gut for two reasons. First, Mujica appeared to be one of the best value options on the free-agency market. He was projected to cost in the $4-6 million range annually, and he signed a deal toward the lower half of that estimate.
But perhaps more stinging is the fact that Mujica went to the division-rival Red Sox to improve their already stellar bullpen. With former Orioles reliever Koji Uehara back in Boston next season, Mujica likely won't even close.
Combine that with the Yankees opening up their checkbook to spend a combined $238 million to put Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann in pinstripes well into the decade, and it doesn't look good.
Mujica wasn't necessarily the answer to replace Johnson. He was 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA with 37 saves, but he lost the closer job in St. Louis to Trevor Rosenthal near the end of the regular season and his appearances dwindled in the second half. Opposing hitters batted .333 against him after the All-Star break, and he only registered seven saves in the final two months of the season.
But he seemed to be high on the Orioles' wish list.
Now the Orioles will direct their search to other closers available on the market, but as we wrote this morning, there aren't many bargain-bin options. Sure, $10 million seems like a lot of money, but it doesn't go tremendously far in the free-agency market.