Last season, the Cardinal bullpen was in shambles from day one. That was assured when the club chose to continue using 38-year-old Ryan Franklin as the team's closer.
By midseason, general manager John Mozeliak had several crises on his hands, but he was able to address them all with one trade.
The trade appeared quite desperate on the surface, as he moved the talented, but enigmatic Colby Rasmus to acquire Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.
However, the trade effectively settled the clubhouse, the rotation and the bullpen. The rest, as they say, was history, as the Cardinals streaked to their 11th championship.
Earlier in 2012, Mozeliak found himself in a similar situation, needing to address a shaky bullpen that (along with a feckless offense) essentially cost the Cards the NL Central this year.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers were making earth-shaking multi-player deals and the bullpen-rich Reds picked up a popular former closer in Jonathan Broxton, the Cardinals picked up a single, relatively unknown middle reliever from the Miami Marlins.
The Cards quietly acquired right-handed reliever Edward Mujica for former first-round pick and third-base hopeful Zack Cox, and Cardinal Nation uttered a resounding, "Who?"
At the time, Mujica's stats were by no means exciting—an 0-3 record and a 4.38 ERA.
But these are the kind of gems good general managers dig up. In 67 games last year, Mujica was filthy, with a 2.96 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 76 innings pitched.
This was the seventh-inning stopper the Cards sorely needed. Much like Octavio Dotel who filled the role last year, Mujica has taken over the middle innings and been simply dominant from the right side of the mound.
In 29 appearances, Mujica already has a career-high 18 holds generated by a ridiculous 1.03 ERA and microscopic 0.87 WHIP.
We can't ignore the other side of the trade either.
Zack Cox was a name we knew. A "steal" in the draft, he fell to the Cards at the 25th pick due to signability concerns. Cox was said to possess the most advanced bat in the draft.
However, as he approaches his age-24 season, he has just a .762 OPS in the minors—far too little production for a corner infield bat.
It is entirely possible that John Mozeliak moved Cox just in time. He is now a high-draft choice barely clinging to his status as a "prospect" and showing no signs of ever being a major league contributor.
All in all, the Cardinals fleeced the Marlins in this deal.
Even though they backed into the playoffs last night, it can be argued that the Cards would be on the outside looking in if not for Mujica, who is still only 28 years old.
Hopefully, another long playoff run will inspire to the Cards to sign Mujica to a multi-year deal.
It would be a nice change for fans to see a Cardinal bullpen ready to go from day one.
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