Joaquin Benoit Rumors

AL Notes: Soria, Pirela, Jimenez

In Joakim Soria, the Tigers have found the top-quality closer they’ve lacked in the past several seasons, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. Soria has been successful in all ten of his save chances this season while allowing just two runs in 11 2/3 innings. Over the past several years, the Tigers have leaned on the often unreliable Jose Valverde and Joe Nathan, with a strong partial-season performance from Joaquin Benoit in 2013 providing a few months of respite. The Tigers bullpen was a problem last year, and Schmehl notes that much of it is still shaky. But for now, their closer problem seems to be solved. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Jose Pirela‘s terrific hitting on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this weekend has the Yankees considering promoting him to the big leagues, Chad Jennings of the Journal News writes. Pirela, who’s returning from a concussion suffered in Spring Training, has had three or more hits in three straight games. Jennings notes that Gregorio Petit currently serves as the Yankees’ righty bench infielder, but that Pirela could provide more offense.
  • Infielder Luis Jimenez, who the Red Sox claimed from the Brewers this weekend, allows Boston to use their other bench players more flexibly, manager John Farrell says (via Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald). “Righthanded utility guy, we like the defense, particularly at third, if that comes into play,” says Farrell. “It gives us some more flexibility with Brock (Holt) and Daniel Nava, and hopefully a chance to get back to 13 position players.” Jimenez rates as a plus defensive third baseman and could prove to be a valuable backup for Pablo Sandoval. Jimenez can also play elsewhere in the infield.

2016 Vesting Options Update

Several notable players could see their 2016 statuses change depending on whether or not they unlock vesting options in their current contracts.  With the opening month of the 2015 season almost in the books, let’s check in on the progress each of these players are making towards those getting those options to vest…

  • Chase Utley: The veteran second baseman has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 500 plate appearances.  (If he doesn’t, it becomes a team option worth between $5MM-$11MM depending on how much time Utley spends on the DL, with a $2MM buyout.)  Utley has received 81 PA while playing in 21 of the Phillies’ first 22 games, so he is well on the way to having his option vest despite a very rough start — only a .398 OPS and two homers this season, thanks to an incredibly low .102 BABIP.  There is little chance the Phils would let Utley walk for nothing this winter, especially when they could obtain something for him in a trade this summer if Utley agrees to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: The Phillies closer’s 2016 vesting option is one of the reasons why he hasn’t yet been traded, as other teams have been wary about acquiring a reliever with such a potentially large price tag.  Papelbon’s $13MM vests if he finishes 55 games this season, or posts a combined 100 games finished between 2014-15.  The stopper finished 52 games last year and has seven finishes thus far in 2015, putting him on pace for that guaranteed salary next year.
  • David Ortiz: If Ortiz makes at least 425 PA and passes a physical after the season, Boston’s $10MM team option on his services for 2016 will become guaranteed at $11MM (or more, depending on how many plate appearances Ortiz makes).  Ortiz has only had less than 425 PA in two of the last 14 seasons, so barring any injury setbacks for Big Papi, this one seems like a safe bet to vest.
  • Joaquin Benoit: The Padres hold an $8MM team option on Benoit for 2016, but the righty can turn that into a guaranteed option if he finishes at least 55 games this season.  Benoit’s chances are pretty remote, as he was relegated to setup man duties after San Diego acquired Craig Kimbrel.
  • Marlon Byrd: His original two-year, $16MM deal with the Phillies included an $8MM club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 600 PA this season, or a total of 1100 PA over 2014-15 with at least 550 PA this season.  Byrd received 637 PA last season and he has 74 PA over 20 games with the Reds in 2015.  He should continue to get regular playing time for Cincinnati though Byrd is off to a slow start — a .441 OPS with no walks and 24 strikeouts.
  • Santiago Casilla: The Giants righty signed a three-year, $15MM deal in the 2012-13 offseason that contained a vesting option, though little is known about the option’s value or specifics.
  • Nori Aoki: The Giants’ $5.5MM club option on Aoki for 2016 will become a mutual option if Aoki reaches 550 PA.  The outfielder is hitting well and his 102 PA currently leads the league, so he’s well ahead of the pace to vest his option.
  • Jonny Gomes: The Braves outfielder can guaranteed another year on his contract (at a $3MM salary) if he makes 325 PA, and he can unlock higher salaries at the 425 PA and 500 PA plateaus.  Gomes has thus far received 47 PA over 15 games, putting him in decent shape for at least the first level of his vesting option.

We already know that Cliff Lee won’t achieve the innings totals required for his 2016 option to vest.  The Phillies southpaw is attempting to recover from a torn left flexor tendon without undergoing surgery and is currently on the 60-day DL.  Dodgers reliever Brandon League is also recovering from a right shoulder injury and thus stands virtually no chance of reaching the games-finished totals required to allow his 2016 player option to vest.


Quick Hits: Gardenhire, Bryant, Valverde

Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was in attendance as the team his son coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout took on a Twins rookie team Tuesday, would be thrilled to manage again, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “Oh, no. I’ve got a lot left in me in baseball,” says Gardenhire, shown in a photo wearing a T-shirt and smoking a cigar. “If somebody is looking for a manager and I’m a fit, great. I would love to manage again.” After the Twins fired him following last season following the team’s fourth straight season of 92-plus losses, Gardenhire lived for a month in an RV parked near his daughter’s house in Oklahoma while he waited for his first grandchild to be born. Gardenhire turned down a front-office job with the Twins, but says he’s still willing to help his former organization, perhaps with occasional scouting tasks. Here’s more from around the game.

  • MLBPA head Tony Clark says it’s “unfortunate” that teams delay promotion of top prospects for service-time reasons, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports. “We don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest, and we don’t think it’s in the industry’s best interest, to not have the best players on the field all the time,” says Clark. This has become, of course, a point of discussion every year. This season, top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has been the focus of the issue. The Cubs are likely to send him to the minors to start the season even though he’s leading MLB in Spring Training homers with six.
  • One Padres move that didn’t attract much attention in a high-profile winter was their signing of former Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor-league deal. Valverde has performed well in camp, however, and now appears to have a good shot to make the team, Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com writes. “I feel like I’m 21 because I’m throwing 98 [mph],” says Valverde. “I’m surprised because I haven’t walked anybody yet.” Bloom suggests Valverde could even be the Padres’ closer. That would be an upset if it came to pass, since Joaquin Benoit performed well in that role last year after the team traded Huston Street.


NL West Links: Quackenbush, Peralta, Upton

With the injuries piling up within the Dodgers‘ rotation, Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times wonders if the team erred by not making any significant additions both at the trade deadline or even last offseason.  In refusing to deal any of their top prospects for Major League upgrades, “you have to wonder if the Dodgers’ desire to have it both ways — win now while simultaneously rebuilding the farm system — might not cost them their best chance at winning this season,” Dilbeck writes.  Here’s some more from around the NL West…

  • Rookie Kevin Quackenbush recorded his first career save last night, and if the youngster produces over the rest of the season, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune feels the Padres might go with the younger (and cheaper) option at closer in 2015.  This would make Joaquin Benoit, the Friars’ current stopper, into an offseason trade candidate.
  • David Peralta went from being a failed Cardinals pitching prospect to a reliable everyday outfielder for the Diamondbacks with an independent league stint in between, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi chronicles how Peralta’s unlikely career revival was due to one persistent D’Backs scout.
  • Justin Upton is enjoying another strong season with the Braves, which again begs the question of why the Diamondbacks traded of the star outfielder in January 2013.  A former D’Backs employee tells Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) that the low-key Upton simply didn’t fit Arizona’s model for a superstar.  “Management there wants it done a certain way. They want their guys to be Luis Gonzalez, who was very active in the community,” the source said.  “They wanted Justin to be the face of the franchise — they had that ‘Uptown’ sign in the outfield — but that’s not Justin. He would say, ‘I just want to play the game.’

Dee On Black, Preller, Kennedy, Benoit

Padres president Mike Dee recently spoke to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal about the team’s future with new GM A.J. Preller. Here are the highlights:

  • The Padres “never seriously considered” firing manager Bud Black despite the team’s struggles this season and the dismissal of GM Josh Byrnes, Dee says. He does note that it remains to be seen whether Preller will want Black to continue, but he expresses confidence in Black as a manager and he notes that Preller was open-minded during the interview process about keeping Black.
  • Dee says he doesn’t have any directive in place that instructs Preller to make August trades. “That’s going to be up to him,” Dee says, noting that the Padres have both Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015. “It would have to be tremendous value,” says Dee.
  • Preller does not view 2015 as a rebuilding year, Dee says. “A.J. is not looking at this like 2015 is a white-towel year while we restock the reservoir with talent,” says Dee. “He said very clearly yesterday (at his news conference) and he said to us privately, ‘As long as you have the quality of pitching that we have, you have a chance to win every night.'”

Quick Hits: Red Sox, Stanton, Yankees, Pirates

The Red Sox decided to sell last week after it became clear the odds were against them contending, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes in a long piece on the team’s deadline moves. “No matter how we think the team should be playing or could play over the last 60 games or so, the math was against us,” says Sox GM Ben Cherington. “And if we’re really serious about building another team and trying to become as good as we can as quickly as we can, well, what do we need to find out the rest of the way to do that?” Abraham adds that the Red Sox discussed potential trades with 26 of the 29 other teams, ultimately dealing Jon Lester, John Lackey, Stephen Drew and Andrew Miller. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • One player the Red Sox didn’t discuss was Giancarlo Stanton, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. The Marlins were bidders for Jon Lester, but they offered a collection of prospects, and the Red Sox did not attempt to pry Stanton away. Of course, from the Marlins’ perspective, dealing an established star like Stanton might have defeated the purpose of trading for another established star in Lester, particularly since Lester is eligible for free agency after the season.
  • When Esmil Rogers entered the game for the Yankees Sunday, he became the team’s 29th pitcher this season, a franchise record, as Katie Sharp of It’s About The Money tweets. That group includes injury cases (Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda etc.), barely used relievers (Bruce Billings, Chris Leroux, Wade LeBlanc, Jim Miller, Cesar Cabral, Jeff Francis) and even former infielder Dean Anna.
  • The Pirates sat out of the trade deadline for the second straight year, but the trading season isn’t over, notes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Bucs made two waiver trades in 2013, acquiring outfielder Marlon Byrd, backup catcher John Buck, and first baseman Justin Morneau. After a quiet July trade deadline in 2014, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Pirates dip into the waiver trade market again.
  • Pedro Alvarez has lost his job as the Pirates’ starter at third base, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Bucs aren’t likely to move him to a different position (probably first base) until after the season, however. The Pirates acquired infielder Jayson Nix Sunday as an additional option at third, although Josh Harrison will likely receive most of the available playing time there.
  • Major League Baseball should consider moving the non-waiver trade deadline to some point in August, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. The presence of the second Wild Card causes many teams to consider themselves contenders in late July, leading to few sellers on trade market. Athletics GM Billy Beane says that he approves of the current July 31 deadline but adds that there haven’t been many sellers in recent years. Giants GM Brian Sabean, meanwhile, believes the deadline should be changed.
  • Players who appear likely to clear waivers and become candidates for August trades include Josh Willingham of the Twins, Alex Rios of the Rangers and Carlos Quentin of the Padres, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. That could mean there could be a reasonable market for teams looking for outfielders, especially if Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Drew Stubbs of the Rockies also clear. John Danks of the White Sox and Scott Feldman of the Astros (who pitched a complete game today) are among the starting pitchers likely to clear.
  • The Dodgers and Brewers had the most interest in Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit, Heyman tweets, noting that Benoit is unlikely to clear waivers.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


NL Central Notes: Lackey, Brewers, Huntington

Here’s what’s happening around the NL Central…

  • John Lackey told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch) that he will honor his contract and pitch in 2015 despite the fact that he’ll only earn a minimum salary.  The fact that Lackey was traded to the contending Cardinals played a factor in his decision: “Obviously, it was case by case.  It would have been a harder decision other places, for sure, but this is definitely somewhere I wanted to be, and I’m excited about it.”
  • The Brewers checked in on such names as the PadresJoaquin Benoit, the RockiesLaTroy Hawkins and the DiamondbacksAddison Reed and Brad Ziegler yet came up short in their hunt for a right-handed reliever, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter link).  Earlier today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Crew were one of the finalists to obtain a notable lefty reliever in Andrew Miller.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington discussed his team’s lack of trade activity, telling reporters (including MLB.com’s Tom Singer) that “we identified potential fits, wanted to add and worked hard to. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to push anything across the line….It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years.”  Since Pittsburgh was connected to Jon Lester and David Price, Singer speculates that Huntington was perhaps willing to move young prospects for these aces but couldn’t outbid the A’s and Tigers’ respective offers, both of which included established players.

Dodgers Trying Hard For Benoit

11:37am: The Dodgers are “fully in” on relief help and have the most interest in Benoit, tweets Sherman.

11:15am: The Dodgers are trying hard to acquire Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Yesterday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Dodgers and Yankees were in on the 37-year-old reliever.

Benoit, who assumed the Padres’ closer role after Huston Street was traded to the Angels, has a 1.88 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.63 HR/9, and 38.1% groundball rate in 43 innings this year.  He’s owed about $2MM more this year, plus $8MM in 2015.  Benoit also has an $8MM club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed with 55 games finished in 2015, which likely wouldn’t happen with the Dodgers given the presence of Kenley Jansen.


Stark’s Latest: Price, Lee, Lackey, O’s, Yanks, Payroll Limits

Here’s the latest from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:

  • The Rays are still holding onto David Price unless and until an offer forces a move. “I’d say they’re kind of where they were all winter,” said a competing executive. “Yeah, they’d trade him. But you’ve got to make it so they can’t say no.”
  • Though both sides explored the possibility, the Cardinals and Phillies did not match up on a potential Cliff Lee deal. With Philly seeking a “major prospect” in return, the Cards ultimately turned elsewhere and added Justin Masterson. While St. Louis seemed the best fit for a pre-deadline deal with Lee, Philadelphia still is looking to see if the lefty can be moved before August.
  • The Red Sox are encountering some skepticism from trade partners that John Lackey will play for the league minimum rate next year, as provided by his contract. Of course, that provision makes up a huge portion of Lackey’s trade value, as he would not only contribute down the stretch in 2014 but looks like a very solid rotation piece at a replacement-level price for 2015.
  • The Orioles seem to be focusing more on adding a reliever at this point than a starter, says Stark. Baltimore has been liked to Neal Cotts of the Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks, neither of whom is a pure LOOGY.
  • In search of bullpen help, the Yankees have inquired into Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, James Russell of the Cubs, and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies. The club has also checked on outfielders Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox.
  • The Blue JaysBraves, and Royals are telling teams they cannot add significant payroll in a trade, though Kansas City could take on a starter who would slot in place of James Shields next year.

Dodgers, Yankees Interested In Joaquin Benoit

12:50pm: The Yankees are also interested in Benoit, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears that there aren’t any current discussions between the Yankees and Padres regarding Benoit (Twitter link), though that doesn’t mean New York is interested.

11:37am: The Dodgers are interested in Joaquin Benoit, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter), but the Padres would prefer not to trade him within the division. It doesn’t sound like they’re completely ruling out the idea of moving Benoit, however, as one source told MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo yesterday that there’s a good chance Benoit is traded even after San Diego dealt Huston Street.

Benoit inherited the ninth inning in San Diego following the trade of Street, and he’s been excellent with the Friars all year after inking a two-year, $15.5MM deal in the offseason. The 37-year-old has turned in a 1.88 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 38.1 percent ground-ball rate in 43 innings this season. He’s owed just over $2MM from now through season’s end, and he’s guaranteed $8MM in 2015. Benoit’s contract contains an $8MM club option for 2016, which comes with a $1.5MM buyout.

It’s a bit curious to see that the Padres don’t want to move Benoit within the division. The Padres would strengthen their own farm system while weakening the minor league system of a division rival, and they’re unlikely to contend next year while Benoit is still under contract at any rate. Then again, Padres ownership may feel that the team’s core of young pitching can help them to contend in 2015 if the offense can be properly augmented.