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Koji Uehara wants to continue, and quite possibly, finish his career as the Red Sox bullpen’s closer. It is up to the likes of Ben Cherrington and the rest of the front office to make this happen soon. Uehara becomes a free agent at the end of the 2014 season.
Even though his command has been a bit off this season, he is still playing well above par for the ballclub to the tune of 5-2 and a 1.32 ERA. The Red Sox would be crazy to let him go, right?
The decision may have been a much easier one, if Mujica were performing according to expectation. Edward Mujica has not proven to be nearly as reliable as the front office hoped. Case in point, his WHIP has not been over 1.1 since 2009. On paper Mujica looked like a great alternate closer for the Red Sox when they signed him in December 2013, but the numbers, command, and ability to close games efficiently did not pan out this season. Mujica did pull out a save in the final game of the series against the Reds earlier this week. Still, how does a closer go from 2.78 ERA to a 4.50 ERA? Who knows? The Red Sox got little return on their investment with Mujica. The crown weighs heavy on Uehara’s head to produce in the closing spot.
Signing a contract with Uehara is vital for the Red Sox to be contenders next season. The Red Sox should make an offer soon. A $15 million, one-year deal (the qualifying offer) would be a generous offer. This is approximately $10-11 million more than he is earning this year on the current two-year contract ($4.25M per year). Despite turning 40 next year, he has saved 25 out of 27 games this season. There is no one else in the current bullpen that can make that claim.
Other clubs scouted him before the trade deadline, namely the Baltimore Orioles. He is likely to only to get one-year deals from those other interested teams.
The front office, most likely, has concerns about resigning Uehara. They may be concerned about ongoing shoulder problems, or the possibility of new injuries that come with wear and tear.
Uehara is allowing more hits than last year, but that is not reflected in the numbers. It is these qualitative factors that Cherington must consider. Will he hold up? Can he pitch every day? How is Uehara’s command and consistency over the final inning?
Thankfully, these considerations have not hindered his performance this year.
The Sox pitching staff cannot afford another personnel loss. If they have $15 million to spend, then they should pay Uehara to keep him at the back end of the bullpen.