DECEMBER 28: The Padres have announced the deal. Corey Brock of MLB.com reports that Benoit will earn $6MM in 2014 and $8MM in 2015, and the deal includes an $8MM option for 2016 (with a $1.5MM buyout) that will vest if Benoit finishes 55 games in 2015.
DECEMBER 19: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Benoit's contract will be a two-year, $15.5MM contract once he passes his physical.
DECEMBER 19: The Padres and right-hander Joaquin Benoit are in agreement on a deal, pending a physical, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Talks between San Diego and the ACES client were said to be heating up earlier this morning.
The 36-year-old Benoit posted a 2.01 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 with 24 saves in 67 innings for the Tigers in 2013. Passan reported last week that the Padres and Indians were both discussing deals in the neighborhood of $14MM over two years with Benoit. Since that time, Cleveland appears to have moved on by inking John Axford to a one-year deal.
Benoit fills a need for the Padres by adding an experienced arm to the back of the bullpen now that Luke Gregerson has been traded to the Athletics. San Diego already has Huston Street under control for $7MM next season, making him the likely closer, but Benoit could step into the ninth inning in the event that the oft-injured Street winds up on the disabled list.
Injuries haven't been a problem for Benoit since he missed the 2009 season following surgery to repair his right rotator cuff. Since that time, Benoit has stayed off the disabled list entirely, averaging 65 innings per season and posting a brilliant 2.53 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 259 1/3 total innings of work. In that time, opponents have batted a mere .200/.258/.333 against Benoit.
The contract is a rarity for San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes, who has given just one multiyear pact to a reliever – Street's two-year, $14MM contract — in his time as a general manager. When I spoke to him at last month's GM meetings, Byrnes told me that he would be against signing a left-handed reliever to a multiyear pact, but he clearly didn't feel the same about right-handers, or at least about Benoit specifically.
In addition to Street, Benoit will join a mix of relievers that includes Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Tim Stauffer and Brad Boxberger. Left-hander Patrick Schuster, acquired in a trade with the Astros (who selected him in the Rule 5 Draft) could also get a chance to compete for a job. Byrnes is known to be on the lookout for a left-handed reliever.
As I noted when projecting a two-year, $16MM contract for Benoit in my free agent profile nearly two months ago, Benoit faced steep competition on this year's open market given the presence of Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson and many other closer-type relievers. In spite of that competition, his agents at ACES look to have done well, as he will nearly match the $16.5MM guarantee on his last contract despite it being a three-year deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.