Phillies Sign Bailey & Mujica
The Phillies have signed veteran right-handed relievers Andrew Bailey and Edward Mujica to minor league deals with invitations to big league Spring Training, putting a ribbon on a total bullpen overhaul that shifts the team from a homegrown crew to a grab bag of reclamation projects and newer, shinier organizational arms. Bailey is a Proven Closer who began his career in Oakland, but has dealt with a litany of injuries and hasn’t pitched more than 40 innings in a season since 2011. Mujica saved 37 games for the Cardinals in 2013, thus earning the Proven Closer tag as well, but has spent most of his career as a 7th/8th inning guy. The two newest Phillies, who were born three weeks apart in 1984, will compete for late-inning duties with David Hernandez and Ernesto Frieri, also recently signed by the Klentak regime.
Bailey (@AndrewBailey40) was born in Voorhees, New Jersey, and is an alumnus of Paul VI High School in Haddonfield. I always find it fascinating when local athletes sign with the Philadelphia teams, and/or when fans clamor for local boys to come home. I sort of understand the appeal of having someone to root for who’s From Here, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. If a player is a local, and he doesn’t perform to expectations, he’s likely to receive an extra helping of Brotherly Love. Bailey has a tough road ahead, as he’s been on the shelf for most of the last two seasons after enduring shoulder surgery in 2013. He didn’t pitch at all in 2014, and made his 2015 debut in September with the Yankees. Bailey’s upcoming season will be intriguing. If he can make a Ryan Madson-esque comeback from a major injury, he could be a valuable piece in the Phillies’ bullpen, which would make for a great story. However, the former All-Star and Rookie of the Year has a significant chance of not making the cut if his stuff is as diminished as one would expect after shoulder surgery.
Mujica, conversely, has been quite durable throughout his career. The Venezuelan righty has logged at least 40 innings in every season since 2009, averaging 63 appearances per year. His K% has declined annually for five straight seasons, but his splitter is still a moderately effective weapon, as his groundball percentage has remained relatively steady. Mujica, recently of the Red Sox and Athletics, may welcome a return to the National League, where he has enjoyed more success in his career than in the Junior Circuit. His alarming 17.5% home run to fly ball percentage from 2015 may be a sign of declining stuff, or could merely be an outlier. After all, Mujica – a former All-Star as well – is still just 31 years old.
These signings come with zero risk and, correspondingly, little upside. There’s nothing to dislike about these moves though, as it adds to the bullpen competition and gives Pete Mackanin a lot of options to evaluate in Clearwater. It’s possible that the Phillies can catch lightning in a bottle with one of the new four horsemen, but the chance for more than one or two of these arms to pan out seems low. My money is on David Hernandez to have the most success of the group and likely lead the charge in the ninth inning until Jimmy Cordero finds his control. It would be a surprise to see all four on the big league team in April, but stranger things have happened.