Reliever Joaquin Benoit increased his stock considerably this past MLB season with the Detroit Tigers, and it looks like he will reap the benefits in San Diego. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Benoit and the Padres have agreed upon a free-agent deal.
Sources: Joaquin Benoit deal with San Diego is done, pending physical.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2013
Per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the contract is for two years and will pay Benoit nearly $7.5 million annually provided he passes his physical.
benoit deal will be for close to $15M for 2 years with padres, once finalized. @JeffPassan reported agreement— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 18, 2013
On Dec. 28, the Padres confirmed he had passed the physical:
The 36-year-old native of the Dominican Republic has been one of the top relievers in baseball since 2010, and he arguably enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013. Not only did Benoit post a 2.01 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, but he also converted 24 saves as the Tigers' primary closer.
Mike Axisa of Eye on Baseball breaks down Benoit's recent turnaround:
Benoit's career was close to over in 2009 cuz of injury. Since then he has a 2.53 ERA and 4.10 K/BB, signed for $31.5M worth of contracts.— Mike Axisa (@mikeaxisa) December 18, 2013
Benoit had never saved more than six games in a season prior to 2013, and it was unclear if he had the mentality necessary to be a closer. Benoit was a lifesaver for Detroit since it didn't have any other options to close out games, but he became expendable after the Tigers signed Joe Nathan to a two-year deal on Dec. 3.
Is this a smart signing by the Padres?
Although Benoit likely won't be asked to save games for the Padres since Huston Street is already installed as the closer, it is nice to have another reliever who is capable of pitching in the ninth inning just in case.
According to Corey Brock of MLB.com, Benoit was a primary target for San Diego in terms of replacing former setup man Luke Gregerson. Padres general manager Josh Byrnes was non-committal about finding a replacement in free agency prior to Dec. 18, though.
"If there's a legit guy, we'll pursue it ... but if it's not a difference-maker, we'll likely go with our young guys."
Apparently Byrnes views Benoit as a "legit" answer, and it's easy to see why based on his recent success.
The Padres finished with a record of just 76-86 last season, but they have to believe they are closer to contention since they have made shoring up the late innings a main focus.
Even if things go south for the Padres, Benoit should be a fantastic trade piece if nothing else, so it is a very savvy signing on Byrnes' part.
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