Tigers Sign Joaquin Benoit

Talk about rebuilding value.  The Tigers officially signed righty reliever Joaquin Benoit to a three-year, $16.5MM deal today, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  He can earn another $1MM per year in incentives.  It's the biggest contract for a non-closer reliever since Scott Linebrink's four-year, $19MM pact with the White Sox three years ago.  Benoit's last contract had been of the minor league variety with the Rays, but now he'll be paid $5.5MM annually.  The contract is another big score for the Levinson brothers at ACES, who also did the deals for John Buck, Brandon Inge, and Jhonny Peralta

Benoit was one of baseball's best bargains in 2010, as he posted a 1.34 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, and 38.9% groundball rate in 60 1/3 innings.  Benoit was available cheaply because he was coming off rotator cuff surgery performed in January of 2009.  The Rays will receive a supplemental draft pick for their loss. 

This time around, the Tigers had to pay full sticker price with a commitment reminiscent of the Astros' three-year, $15MM deal with Brandon Lyon a year ago.  Benoit will set up for Jose Valverde in 2011, and could close in the following seasons.  The Tigers' biggest offseason deals are yet to come, as they're expected to add a big bat or two.  Tip of the hat to MLBTR's Mark Polishuk, who correctly predicted the Tigers would sign Benoit. 

Benoit is off the board, but right-handed relief remains a strong suit of this year's free agent class.

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports was first to report the near-agreement, while ESPN's Enrique Rojas added details.

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