Phillies offseason targets: Mujica, Benoit

Phillies offseason targets: Mujica, Benoit
November 9, 2013, 11:00 am

Edward Mujica, left, and Joaquin Benoit, right, both had primarily been setup men before they each had a run as closers in 2013. (AP)

Over the next several weeks we’ll unveil a list of potential free agents and trade targets the Phillies could pursue this offseason, one in which they’ll need to plug holes behind the plate, in the corner outfield and, most importantly, on the pitching staff.

Today, we look at two free-agent relievers.

Edward Mujica
Age: 29
2011-2013 statistics: 11-10, 2.93 ERA, 202 games, 39 saves, 1.024 WHIP
Most recent contract: Made $3.2 million with the Cardinals in 2013

Joaquin Benoit
Age: 36
2011-2013 statistics: 13-7, 2.89 ERA, 205 games, 28 saves, 1.075 WHIP
Most recent contract: Three years, $16.5 million with Tigers

The Phillies hoped they had cured their eighth-inning problem when they signed Mike Adams last winter.

They didn’t.

Adams wasn’t right from the early stages of the season and ended up missing more than half the season with a serious shoulder injury that required surgery. He is on the books for $7 million in 2014, but no one is sure when he’ll be back or how effective he will be when he returns.

So this offseason, the Phils are once again looking for help in that tricky seventh- and eighth-inning area. Finding someone with some closer experience to be insurance for Jonathan Papelbon wouldn’t be a bad idea as Papelbon had some rocky times in 2013.

There are a number of relievers on the free-agent market that fit this description. Mujica and Benoit are two of them. We mention them together because they have some similarities.

The top similarity is that both right-handers had primarily been setup men before they each had a nice run as closers in 2013 -- Mujica for St. Louis, Benoit for Detroit.

Mujica made his first all-star team. For the season, he had a 2.78 ERA in 65 games. He’s not a big strikeout guy, but walked just five batters and had 37 saves (four blown).

However, Mujica suffered from some shoulder soreness late in the season and pitched himself out of the closer’s role with an 11.05 ERA in September. He also battled a groin problem and was used just twice in the postseason as he was passed on the depth chart by other Cardinals relievers.

Mujica made $3.2 million in 2013. He is the type of guy that could interest the Phillies, but they will have to exercise due diligence in examining his late-season decline.

Benoit has put together three strong seasons in Detroit, including 2013 when he saved 24 games (he blew just two saves) and had a 2.01 ERA and a 1.030 WHIP in 66 games.

The Tigers haven’t closed the door on bringing Benoit back, but they appear to be leaning toward chasing a more proven closer like Joe Nathan. If Benoit does not return to Detroit, he could look for a closer opportunity (and money) elsewhere. He made $5.5 million in 2013 and will probably seek upwards of $7 million per season in a multi-year deal. The Phillies have $20 million tied up in Adams and Papelbon for 2014, and they like the strides that Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg and Justin De Fratus made in 2013, so they may be reluctant to meet Benoit’s price.

But you can bet they will consider it and have the proper conversation with Benoit’s representatives.

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