Joaquin Benoit Rumors
It was on this day in 2009 that Mark Fidrych died at age 54 as the result of a freak truck repair accident. Fidrych burst onto the scene as a Tigers rookie in 1976, posting a 2.34 ERA over 250 1/3 innings, starting the All-Star Game for the American League and capturing the AL Rookie Of The Year Award in the process. His pitching aside, "The Bird" was even better known for his unique personality and quirky mound habits (such as talking to the ball or personally smoothing out cleat marks on the mound), as well as appearing on perhaps the greatest cover in Sports Illustrated history. Though Fidrych's career was short, baseball fans will never forget one of the game's great characters. The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to Fidrych's family and friends on this anniversary of his passing.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central...
- Joaquin Benoit and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski both had nothing but good things to say about the veteran reliever's tenure in Motown, but the Tigers didn't make Benoit a contract offer last winter. Dombrowski tells John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that “When it came down to it, we had Joe Nathan over Joaquin as a closer, and that’s the direction we decided to pursue. We kept a pulse of his free-agent situation all winter long. But it just looked like he was going to (cost) a little more than we wanted to pay for a set-up guy." Benoit ended up signing a two-year, $15.5MM deal with the Padres.
- Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting well but could be the victim of a roster crunch, so a reader asked Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (as part of a mailbag piece) if the Indians could possibly deal the third baseman. Hoynes believes it's generally too early for teams to be exploring the trade market, barring an injury, and Chisenhall is still an unproven commodity at the Major League level. Since Chisenhall is 25 years old and only a couple of years removed from being regarded as the Tribe's top prospect, I'd think Cleveland would need a big return to consider moving Chisenhall, even though Carlos Santana has seemingly taken over at third base.
- Sam Fuld could be an interesting pickup for the Twins, 1500ESPN.com's Derek Wetmore opines, as he would add depth to a Minnesota team that is thin on outfield options. The Athletics designated Fuld for assignment yesterday.
Padres fans got some welcome news this evening, as it was announced that Time Warner Cable will begin airing Padres games for the coming season, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. As Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs has explained, the failure of Time Warner (and, at the time, AT&T U-verse and DISH Network) to agree to the Fox Sports San Diego subscriber fee not only left many fans without access to games, but put a significant dent in the Friars' expected annual payout. Here's more from San Diego and the rest of the NL West:
- When the Padres inked reliever Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $14MM deal earlier in the off-season, it raised an immediate question whether he or incumbent Huston Street would close. As Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes, both back-end arms are content with the situation and their roles. "[Street] is going to shut the door," said Benoit, "and I'm going to try to give him as many games with leads as I can." For his part, Street -- whose deal includes a $7MM club option for 2015 -- says that he understands the business side of things and hopes only for success for his new teammate. "It's a smart move on the Padres' part," he said. "It gives them options for 2015. It gives them options if I go down. It gives them options if I struggle."
- After a breakout campaign last year put him in position for a nice payday as a Super Two, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has yet to reach agreement with his club on a price for his 2014 season. The sides' filing figures ($3.6MM against $2.05MM) are the furthest apart in relative terms among remaining arbitration cases. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, however, it remains likely that a hearing will be avoided, as team and player both recently expressed an expectation that a settlement will be forthcoming.
- Despite adding another rotation arm in Bronson Arroyo, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says that top prospect Archie Bradley can still earn a starting spot out of camp, reports FOX Sports Arizona's Jack Magruder. "We want to get out of the gate quick," said Towers. "I've said from the beginning, with Archie, it's not about trying to save a year, save money. We need to win games. If he's ready coming out of the spring and we're a better ballclub with Archie being in it, he's going to be there." Putting the 21-year-old on the MLB roster for Opening Day would mean giving up the ability to extend team control for an extra season, but Towers' statement indicates that is still a real possibility. (On the other hand, given that factor and Bradley's limited seasoning, it will probably be a tall order for him to unseat one of the expected five as a practical matter.) Fellow righty Randall Delgado would likely join the bullpen if he does not earn a turn in the rotation, said Towers, since he is out of options.
- The Arroyo signing has earned mixed reviews; as MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth opined, for example, the $23.5MM guarantee that he received is a debatable investment in a market that promised Paul Maholm just $1.5MM. One under-the-radar issue with Arroyo, argues Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, is that his pronounced struggles against lefties have been masked somewhat by pitching in a division (the National League Central) that has not featured the volume of left-handed bats to take full advantage of the platoon split. In particular, Cameron says, should the Diamondbacks reach the post-season, Arroyo's achilles heel could significantly impair his usefulness to his new club.
The Diamondbacks are interested in flying to Japan to meet with Masahiro Tanaka, although they have not yet scheduled a meeting, Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com reports. The Diamondbacks have been connected to Tanaka and other top free-agent starters, although Piecoro notes that it will be tricky for them to outbid the Yankees and other big-market teams for Tanaka's services. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Yankees are the favorites to get Tanaka, but he would provide such a big boost to the Angels' rotation that he could change the complexion of the AL West if he heads to Anaheim, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes (on Sulia).
- The futures of Padres relievers Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street are intertwined, the San Diego Union-Tribune's Bill Center writes. The Padres have signed Benoit to a two-year deal that pays him $6MM in 2014 and $8MM in 2015, with an $8MM option for 2016 and a $1.5MM buyout. The option vests, however, if Benoit finishes 55 games in 2015, which would only happen if he were the closer for almost the entire season. Street, meanwhile, will be paid $7MM in 2014, with a $7MM option for 2015. Street will close for the Padres in 2014, but it's unclear what will happen after that. "Huston has done it very well for a long time. Benoit has done it for four years. Huston is a pro. Nothing changes here," says Padres GM Josh Byrnes. "We do have a decision for 2015. Nothing is guaranteed for 2015."
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.
Reports last week indicated that the Padres and Indians were competing for Benoit's services on a two-year deal in the $14MM range. Since that time, Cleveland has inked John Axford, so it's unclear if they're still in on Benoit. 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. He's also drawn interest from the Rockies, but he was said to be too expensive for Colorado's tastes, as he's seeking $7-10MM annually.
4:59pm: An official with knowledge of the talks tells ESPN's Buster Olney that the Padres are in the lead for Benoit (Twitter link).
2:05pm: The Padres and Indians are both in on Benoit at two years and $14MM or more, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The Padres' offer may include a third-year option, he adds.
The move would come as somewhat of a surprise, given GM Josh Byrnes' previous aversion to multiyear pacts for relief pitchers. Huston Street is the only reliever to sign a significant multiyear deal with the Padres during Byrnes' tenure.
Benoit, 36, 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. He's drawn interest from the Rockies, but he was said to be too expensive for Colorado's tastes, as he's seeking $7-10MM annually. Reports yesterday indicated that the Padres were one of the most likely landing spots for Benoit, along with the Indians, Cubs, Yankees and Mariners.
Joaquin Benoit and his agent are believed to be seeking an annual salary of between $7MM and $10MM per year, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter). That would make Benoit slightly more affordable than fellow free agent reliever Fernando Rodney, who is reportedly looking for $10MM+ annually.
Coming off a season in which he recorded a 2.01 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in 67 innings, Benoit represents one of the more appealing options on the relief market, which should give him some leverage in negotations. Back in October, MLBTR's Steve Adams predicted that the righty would land a two-year deal worth $16MM, so an annual salary of $7-10MM isn't an unreasonable request for Benoit and his reps at ACES.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported late last night that teams believe Benoit's likeliest potential destinations are the Indians, Padres, Mariners, Cubs, and Yankees.
As Day Three of the Winter Meetings in Orlando comes to a close, plenty of free agents are still seeking new teams. Here are the latest updates on a few of them:
- Rockies people tell Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Twitter link) that nothing has changed with Nelson Cruz. There's interest in the free agent outfielder, but it's not being characterized as serious at this point.
- The Mariners have been ardent Cruz pursuers from the start of the winter, and one baseball source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com they'll continue to be in the mix for him even after adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison.
- Teams believe reliever Joaquin Benoit's likeliest destinations are the Indians, Padres, Mariners, Cubs, or Yankees, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
- Agent Scott Boras says client Jose Valverde, who turns 36 in March, intends to continue his big league career and has drawn interest from two big league teams, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. The Tigers released their former closer in August after his Triple-A reboot didn't go as well as he hoped.
- Earlier in the evening, assistant GM Bobby Evans expressed optimism that San Francisco would find a left fielder by trade or free agency by the day's end, with Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com naming Franklin Gutierrez as a candidate. However, the Giants no longer expect resolution on their left field situation tonight, says Baggarly (via Twitter). The CSN Bay Area scribe also takes a more in-depth look at some of the club's options.
- Catcher Kurt Suzuki is talking with the Rockies, Cubs, and Twins, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
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.
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.