Joaquin Benoit Rumors

Quick Hits: Diaz, Benoit, Axford, Feldman, Ibanez

Since being ruled ineligible due to providing a false birthdate over the summer, Cuban shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz has interest from a list of teams including the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees, agent Jamie Torres tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. “There are some very good players out right now and more are coming,” Torres said. “Let’s put it this way: I can predict that a few of the Cuban players that sign between now and Spring Training are going to contribute in the big leagues in the 2014 season and their contribution is going to be significant.”  More from around baseball..

  • Omar Infante has been looking for a four-year deal and is drawing some interest from clubs who see him as a left fielder or third baseman, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Yesterday it was reported that Infante is seeking a deal with an $8MM+ average annual value.
  • Some agents and teams are convinced that the three-year, $30MM deal the Astros gave free agent pitcher Scott Feldman has been a wrench in talks for others since agents feel obligated to also shoot for that type of “lottery ticket” contract, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
  • Free agent Raul Ibanez is considering offers from multiple contenders, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Earlier today, Stark reported that Ibanez could be headed to the Angels.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson says he’ll hold on to Ike Davis if no one comes to the table with a strong enough offer, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. “Let me emphasize one thing: We’re not in the business of giving players away,” Alderson said. “We don’t expect to get in that business.”
  • The Tigers are in on Ervin Santana, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). The Twins, meanwhile, aren’t in the mix because of the draft pick compensation tied to him.
  • Agent Scott Boras says he would talk to Orioles owner Peter Angelos about extensions for Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, writes CSNBaltimore.com’s Rich Dubroff.
  • The Twins continue to talk to free agent pitcher Mike Pelfrey, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether a deal with Pelfrey would preclude a signing of fellow free agent hurler Bronson Arroyo, but MInnesota has flexibility.
  • One GM tells Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily (Twitter link) that he can’t see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft.
  • White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn says his team still has several potential options ahead less than 24 hours after acquiring center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. One rival exec believes the White Sox would like to trade outfielder Dayan Viciedo, who is now part of a crowded house with the addition of Eaton. Another baseball source said the White Sox have looked into the possibility of trading away second baseman Gordon Beckham.
  • The free agent market for second basemen seems to be impacted by the availability of Howie Kendrick, Brandon Phillips, and others, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.

Relief Rumors: Lefties, Axford, Papelbon, Benoit, Guerrier, Rays

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the top left-handed relievers on the market — J.P. Howell, Boone Logan, Eric O'Flaherty and Scott Downs — should begin to start coming off the board in the next 24 to 48 hours. It's already been reported that O'Flaherty is in talks with the Braves about a return to Atlanta. Here's the latest on the market for relievers…

  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that there's a sense that the Nationals will land a left-handed reliever today.
  • The Orioles have had talks with John Axford, tweets Morosi. They're also said to be the current favorites for Grant Balfour.
  • A rival executive estimated that the Phillies would have to eat about 40 to 50 percent of Jonathan Papelbon's remaining salary to trade him, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Papelbon is owed $13MM in each of the next two seasons and has a vesting option for a fifth year.
  • The Rockies have had discussions with Joaquin Benoit but are a ways apart in terms of salary, Morosi reports. Talks between the two sides are fading, as Benoit appears likely to seek a more lucrative deal elsewhere (Twitter links).
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted yesterday that when the dust settles from the Winter Meetings, Matt Guerrier's name could be a of interest to the Indians.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that even after re-signing Juan Carlos Oviedo and acquiring Heath Bell, the Rays are still looking to improve their bullpen. One option could be injured lefty Jordan Norberto, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season.

East Notes: Mets, Burnett, Phillies, Benoit

The Mets' offseason will be a disappointment if the Curtis Granderson acquisition is the only big move, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. "If this really is it — after all the buildup asking for patience to let the money of Johan Santana and Jason Bay go away — then this will be a breach with the fan base," Sherman says. "Heading toward another $85 million-ish payroll is — quite frankly — not honoring the commitment. It is being the San Diego Mets." Here are more notes from around the East divisions.

  • A.J. Burnett still hasn't decided whether or not to pitch in 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Burnett has previously said he intends to pitch for the Pirates or retire, but Heyman introduces a new possibility — that Burnett could pitch for the Orioles instead. Burnett resides in Maryland.
  • GM Ruben Amaro says the Phillies would eat salary in a trade that improved the team, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury notes that the Phillies would like to trade Jonathan Papelbon, who will make $13MM in both 2014 and 2015 and has a $13MM vesting option in 2016.
  • Despite the signing of Nate McLouth, the Nationals have no plans to deal Denard Span, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Span will continue to be their center fielder and leadoff hitter.
  • The Yankees have had "lots of internal discussions" about free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports (via Twitter). The Yankees would like to add two bullpen arms.


Relief Rumors: Tigers, Axford, Cubs, Mujica, Rox

Another busy day is shaping up at the Winter Meetings, and there's already no shortage of rumors regarding the relief market. The biggest news on that front is that the Orioles are considered the favorites for Grant Balfour, but here's the latest elsewhere on the bullpen market…

  • With Rajai Davis now in the fold in Detroit, the Tigers will shift their focus to bullpen upgrades, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
  • Unless Joaquin Benoit gives up his pursuit of a closer job, the Tigers are out on him, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com. 
  • The Indians are one team that's been linked to John Axford, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, who notes that previous reports have linked him to the Orioles, Mariners and Cubs.
  • The Cubs are in on relievers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but a free-agent signing is more likely than a trade. The Cubs were linked to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard yesterday.
  • MLBTR's Tim Dierkes hears (Twitter link) that the Cubs were in on Edward Mujica on a one-year deal prior to his two-year agreement with the Red Sox. Tim opines that Mujica may have been able to make more money in the long run that way — a sentiment with which I agree.
  • Last night, the Denver Post's Troy Renck reported that the Rockies are pushing to acquire a late-inning reliever, and this morning he reports that something could get done as soon as today (Twitter link).

Zach Links contributed to this post.

 


Rockies Rumors: Pomeranz, Davis, Anderson, Hammel

The Rockies haven't made any moves yet in Orlando, but they're expected to be active this week, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Renck passed along a few tidbits of note in a Monday piece for the Denver Post, so let's round up the highlights and check in on a few more Rockies items from other reporters….

  • The Rockies have talked to practically ever hard-throwing free agent reliever, with Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour among the pitchers they'd most like to land. However, the price tags on both players will likely preclude serious bids from Colorado, says Renck.
  • Colorado will be open-minded about moving Drew Pomeranz, particularly in a deal for another starter, Renck hears, noting within a Sulia post that the team has some interest in Wade Davis.
  • Brett Anderson is another trade candidate who interests the Rockies, but the club's talks with the Athletics are "slowly fading," tweets Renck. While Anderson isn't necessarily off the table for Colorado, there's no traction for now.
  • MLB.com's Thomas Harding reports that the Rockies are kicking the tires on Jason Hammel, who spent three seasons with the team from 2009 to 2011. Harding also confirms that Colorado has interest in Michael Morse, which we had heard about previously.

Phillies Notes: Free Agency, Morse, Ruiz, Buck

Here's the latest from the City of Brotherly Love…


AL Notes: Napoli, Tigers, Orioles, Ryan

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred testified, during the Alex Rodriguez arbitration hearing, baseball did not concern itself if Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch distributed illegal substances to minors and was only interested in possible criminal activity involving players. Today, Manfred called the report "ridiculous" telling Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his testimony was "totally out of context and mischaracterized" and accused the A-Rod camp of leaking the story. "The larger point is this: From our perspective, one of the reasons we pursue cases like the A-Rod case is we think players should be role models for kids," Manfred explained to Haudricourt. "It's almost comical that A-Rod, who already has admitted in the past he used steroids, would express an opinion on our stance on children and PEDs." The hearing will resume next month. In other news and notes from the American League:

  • Mike Napoli's strong postseason is further proof his avascular necrosis is not an issue as he enters free agency for the second time, reports MLB.com's Lindsay Berra. Napoli was frustrated by having to settle for a one-year, $5MM deal (incentives pushed the eventual value to $13MM) after a three-year, $39MM contract was scrapped because of the AVN diagnosis. "I waited seven years for free agency and then got an opportunity, and it got taken away because of something I didn't even know I had and had never had any pain from," said Napoli. "I'm a little more confident about negotiating a contract now that I've shown all year that my hips aren't an issue, but I'm sure I'm going to have to go through all the steps again, with all the MRIs and talking to doctors."
  • There are six questions the Tigers must answer this offseason, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. Among the answers, Iott predicts Jim Leyland will return as manager, the Tigers will not re-sign Jhonny Peralta (despite his desire to remain in Detroit), but will re-sign Joaquin Benoit and Omar Infante
  • The Orioles don't have a lot of inventory to deal this winter after trading away six players in midseason acquisitions, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson head the list of tradeable players, according to Dubroff.
  • Nolan Ryan left his imprint on the Rangers, especially the pitching staff, with his attitude and focus on conditioning, opines Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
  • Ryan received a $10MM buyout (his ownership stake plus incentives) when he announced his retirement from the Rangers, Grant reports in separate article. However, according to Forbes, Ryan wound up losing money on his ownership investment. Ryan's original equity interest was valued at $13MM (6% ownership); but, dwindled to $7MM (1% ownership) because he declined to participate in various cash calls to cover his share of the losses the franchise incurred.

Free Agent Profile: Joaquin Benoit

Signed to be a setup man for All-Star closer Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit found himself assuming his former teammate's role in 2013 after the Tigers endured significant ninth inning problems early in the season. The 36-year-old didn't miss a beat in his new role, turning in the second best ERA+ of his career (209) and racking up 24 saves. Benoit will head into free agency coming off a season in which he posted a 2.01 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 67 innings.

Strengths/Pros

Like many of today's late-inning specialists, Benoit makes his money by racking up strikeouts. He's fanned 295 batters against just 72 walks over his past 259 2/3 innings at the big league level. Benoit-JoaquinBenoit maybe 36 years old, but his velocity is as strong as ever. His 94.1 mph average fastball trails only Joel Hanrahan, Fernando Rodney, Matt Lindstrom, Joba Chamberlain and Jesse Crain among free agent right-handed relievers. Unlike Hanrahan and Crain, Benoit isn't coming off a serious injury. Unlike Chamberlain, he's enjoyed a dominant season.

In addition to strong velocity, Benoit's swinging-strike rate is the best in among free agent relievers. Opposing batters swing through 13.6 percent of his pitches; his changeup is his best pitch, with hitters whiffing at the pitch 24.7 percent of the time he threw it in 2013 (a mark that best's Rodney's 23.5 percent mark).

Over the past four seasons, the only potential free agents who have appeared in more games than Benoit are Matt Belisle and Chad Qualls. Belisle has a $4.25MM club option, making it more likely that Benoit hits the market as one of the two most durable relief arms since 2010. Despite his dominance, it's highly unlikely that the Tigers make a qualifying offer and risk his salary jumping from $5.5MM to $14MM. He won't be tied to draft pick compensation.

Weaknesses/Cons

Benoit's been durable for the past four seasons, but he was out of baseball entirely in 2009 thanks to surgery on his right rotator cuff. From 2003-09, Benoit had four separate DL stints for shoulder-related ailments and two DL stints for right elbow issues. Neither joint has been an issue for Benoit since 2009, but it's tough to completely look past that type of injury history when looking at a multiyear deal for a 36-year-old reliever.

Benoit's walk rates have been great since returning from that shoulder surgery, but his BB/9 has risen each season since posting a stellar 1.6 BB/9 in 2010. He jumped to 2.5 in 2011, 2.8 in 2012 and 3.0 in 2013.

Benoit posted a 4.38 ERA in September, and he's allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings of postseason work thus far. He won't have the benefit a strong finish heading into free agency.

Personal

Benoit resides in his hometown of Santiago in the Dominican Republic each offseason. He has a daughter and is active in the Detroit community, participating in campaigns such as Tigers Dreams Come True and the Tigers Autographed Memoribilia Program.

Market

The Tigers deployed Benoit as their closer for much of the season with great success, and his departure means they'll have a void in the ninth inning. Internal candidates Jose Veras and Bruce Rondon could be looked at as cheaper alternatives, but it stands to reason that the Tigers will show interest in re-upping Benoit after three strong years with the club.

Benoit will see serious competition in the form of Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour and Rodney. Like Benoit, all three right-handers are strikeout machines with ninth inning experience that will pitch next season at 36 years of age or older. Unfortunately for Benoit, his ninth inning experience is more limited than that group of peers, and right or wrong, some teams will still pay for saves on the open market. Agent Jamie Appel of ACES can, however, point to the fact that Benoit is younger than Rodney and Nathan and offers better command than Balfour.

Expected Contract

In a recent edition of MLBTR's Free Agent Faceoff series, I compared Benoit and Balfour side-by-side, and more than 69 percent of the 5,600 respondents said they would prefer to sign Balfour. Whether or not that matches the perception among teams remains to be seen.

Benoit was in a better position before it was learned that Nathan is able to void the $9.5MM option on his contract and before Brian Wilson came back strong with the Dodgers. Despite the fact that he has more competition than originally anticipated, however, his dominant performance over the past four seasons should leave him with no problem in securing a multiyear deal.

Tim Dierkes predicted that Nathan, one of Benoit's chief competitors on the open market, will receive a two-year, $26MM pact. Benoit doesn't have near the same track record that Nathan possesses, but he figures to command a two-year deal of his own at a lesser rate, and something in the vicinity of two years and $16MM sounds right for Benoit.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Free Agent Faceoff: Grant Balfour vs. Joaquin Benoit

MLBTradeRumors is firing up this year's vesion of the Free Agent Faceoff series, in which two comparable free agents are analyzed side by side. Each post will conclude with a reader vote on the value of the two players.

The free agent market for relievers with closing experience isn't exactly stacked this year, nor is it a particularly youthful crop. However, if you're looking for a solid arm with ninth inning experience that's still plenty successful in spite of his age, Joaquin Benoit and Grant Balfour are two of the better guys to turn to.

Balfour, a native of Australia, has served as Oakland's closer for the past two seasons and was their setup man in 2011. He's thrived in both roles, posting a combined 2.57 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 37 percent ground-ball rate in 196 1/3 innings. His FIP (3.43) and xFIP (3.63) both suggest that his ERA could come up a good deal. He's averaged 93 mph on his heater in that time but is averaging an even more impressive 93.4 mph in 2013. Balfour has also shown an ability to suppress home runs throughout his career — just 7.9 percent of fly-balls against him have gone for homers. He will turn 36 years old in late December.

Benoit turned 36 in July and has similar stats to Balfour. He's posted a 2.89 ERA with 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 38.9 percent ground-ball rate in 193 1/3 innings since 2011. He throws noticably harder — averaging 93.9 mph on his fastball and sitting at 94.1 mph in 2013 — and generates more swinging strikes than Balfour (14.9 percent compared to 9.1 percent). However, Benoit has proven more susceptible to the long ball, yielding more homers in 2012 alone than Balfour has in 2012-13 combined.  For his career, 9.9 percent of the fly-balls hit against Benoit have gone for homers. Like Balfour, Benoit has outperformed both FIP (3.39) and xFIP (3.27) over the past three seasons.

Both Balfour and Benoit will pitch most of next season at 36 (Benoit will turn 37 just prior to the trade deadline). Both average a strikeout per inning or better with solid command and a fly-ball profile, and both have done well when handed a closer's job late in their careers. It can be argued that Benoit's advantage in strikeouts and walks can be offset by Balfour's stingier ways with home runs, lower ERA and slight age advantage, begging the question…



Quick Hits: Moreno, Pujols, Tejada, Benoit

Angels owner Arte Moreno is already in the process of evaluating the 2013 season and how to get the team back on track in 2014, as he explained in an interview with Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.  Moreno said that the jobs of manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto would be evaluated as part of an organization-wide review that includes himself — "I have to look in the mirror and say, 'Am I making the right call?'" Moreno said.  The owner also discussed roster moves that backfired, stadium talks with the city of Anaheim, how the Dodgers' success impacts the Angels and several other topics.

Here are more items as we wrap up a busy Monday in baseball…

  • Albert Pujols will be shut down for the rest of the season, the Angels confirmed today.  The slugger suffered a partial tear of the plantar facia of his left foot and hasn't played since July 26.  Pujols was bothered by foot injuries for much of the year and hit .258/.330/.437 with 17 homers in 443 PA, the worst season of his 13-year career.
  • Miguel Tejada was also facing a suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal before accepting his 105-game suspension for amphetamine use, ESPN's Pedro Gomez reports.  Major League Baseball gave Tejada the choice of accepting his 105-game ban or facing further punishment for his Biogenesis ties.  Gomez notes that Tejada "insists he does not plan to retire" though given Tejada's suspension, age (39) and decline in production, it's tough to see a team signing him this winter.  After not playing in the majors in 2012, Tejada hit .288/.317/.378 over 167 PA in a reserve role with the Royals this year.
  • Joaquin Benoit in a much better contractual position as he approaches free agency this winter than he was in the 2009-10 offseason.  MLB.com's Zack Meisel talks to Benoit about how he considered retirement due to shoulder injuries that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, but rebounded to become one of the game's better relievers and now the Tigers closer.
  • Scott Boras and Jay Z have a fundamental disagreement about the role of an agent, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal explains.  "It is at once a clash of egos and ideas. At issue: To what extent are established agents like Boras missing out on marketing and endorsement opportunities for their clients? And to what extent should a baseball player even care?" Costa writes.  Robinson Cano, the top free agent of the coming offseason, made waves when he left Boras in April and hired CAA and Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports to handle his representation.