Joaquin Benoit Rumors
A few stray items of note on this Thursday evening ...
- MVP voters who omit pitchers from their ballots should be recused from voting, opines Tracy Ringolsby of FOXSports.com. Voting rules stipulate that all players, including pitchers and DHs, be considered for the MVP, so Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay are legitimate candidates, explains Ringolsby.
- The Tigers' signing of Victor Martinez to a four-year contract is proving to be one of the better moves of the offseason, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
- Nationals righty Chien-Ming Wang has been durable upon returning to the big leagues after missing two-plus years to injury, but he has trouble warming up his surgically repaired right shoulder before starts, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Because of this, Wang, a free agent at season's end, has been struggling early in his starts before settling in.
- Each of the eight likely playoff teams boasts a strong relief tandem, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Half of them were formed in the past year: Last offseason, the Diamondbacks traded for David Hernandez and signed J.J. Putz, and the Tigers signed Joaquin Benoit. In July, the Brewers traded for Francisco Rodriguez and the Rangers acquired Mike Adams.
On this date 101 years ago Cy Young became the first pitcher in baseball history to win 500 games. We don’t pay too much attention to pitcher wins at MLBTR, but 500 of them sure are impressive. Here’s the latest from around the league...
- Clayton Mortensen told Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post that his goal is simple: maintain a spot on the Major League roster for as long as possible. The right-hander has a 2.01 ERA through 22 1/3 innings in his first season with the Rockies.
- An attorney for Dodgers owner Frank McCourt told Bill Shaikin of the LA Times that they aren't even thinking about selling the team (Twitter link).
- The Joaquin Benoit deal won’t be a total waste of money, but will be a bad contract, according to Jamie Samuelsen at the Detroit Free Press. Benoit signed a three-year, $16.5M deal with the Tigers over the winter and has since posted a 7.98 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 14 2/3 innings.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Mets GM Sandy Alderson talk to Newsday’s Ken Davidoff about the challenge of balancing a team’s needs with personal relationships with players.
Six prominent Rays relievers hit free agency and signed elsewhere for a total of $67.65MM last offseason (for reference, the Rays’ payroll has surpassed that figure exactly once since 2000). We know how the Rays' new 'pen is working out (pretty well, so far) but let’s check in on last year’s relievers:
- Rafael Soriano - three years/$35MM, Yankees - After allowing 12 earned runs and 14 walks in 62 1/3 innings last year, Soriano has allowed 9 earned runs and 9 walks in 14 innings this year. His ERA is approaching 6.00, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. What's more, he underwent an MRI on his right elbow this week. It doesn't appear that he'll need DL time, as there's only mild inflammation. Still, Brian Cashman must be shaking his head over this one.
- Joaquin Benoit - three years/$16.5MM, Tigers - Benoit has already allowed more earned runs (10) in 2011 than he did all of last year (9). After allowing just 30 hits in 60-plus innings last year, he has allowed 17 hits in 13 2/3 frames for his new club. The spike in hit rate is no doubt related to the fact that opponents had an improbably low average on balls in play against Benoit last year (.192) that has since risen to an unusually high level (.356). His strikeout (7.2 K/9) and walk (2.6 BB/9) numbers have fallen off, though they're still strong.
- Grant Balfour - two years/$8.1MM, Athletics - Balfour's walks are up, but he is still striking out over a batter per inning and his ERA is under 2.00.
- Dan Wheeler - one year/$3MM, Red Sox - Wheeler, currently on the DL, has an 11.32 ERA for the Red Sox despite an 8K/1BB ratio through 11 appearances. Wheeler appears to be unlucky in terms of opponents' batting average on balls in play (.389) and home run per fly ball rate (21%).
- Chad Qualls - one year/$2.55MM, Padres - Qualls has replaced Ryan Webb in the Padres' 'pen and has already pitched 20 2/3 innings. The results are good so far despite a drop in Ks, as Qualls has limited baserunners and been considerably more fortunate than he was in 2010.
- Randy Choate - two years/$2.5MM, Marlins - Choate has been excellent so far; the lefty specialist has an 11K/2BB ratio and a 1.50 ERA in his first 14 appearances as a Marlin.
The early results are disappointing, as Wheeler and Soriano are dealing with injuries and Benoit hasn’t come close to replicating his 2010 performance. The results will likely improve for Wheeler and Benoit, who have been unlucky so far. But this group probably won’t reproduce the 2010 performances that helped the Rays win the AL East. Reliever performance is simply volatile, even for pitchers who appear to be safe investments.
The Twins signed Joe Crede two years ago today in the hopes that he could replicate or improve upon the numbers he posted in 2008, when he made the All-Star team. Crede battled injuries and clubbed 15 homers in 90 games for Minnesota that year, but he hasn't played in the majors since. Crede remains a free agent after deciding not to report to Rockies camp. Here are today's links...
- In a piece for ESPN.com, MLBTR's own Howard Megdal points out that Mets starter Mike Pelfrey has been far more consistent than anyone gives him credit for.
- MLBPA leader Michael Weiner said the union would be open to a player owning a share of a team, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). The possibility came up when the Cardinals discussed an extension with Albert Pujols.
- Weiner says he expects to make progress on the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement during Spring Training, according to Tim Reynolds of the AP (via the Miami Herald). Baseball's current agreement expires this offseason.
- Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post explains how Livan Hernandez and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo negotiated the right-hander's current contract.
- Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit told Dick Scanlon of the Detroit Free Press that he signed early because the Tigers made him a strong offer ($16.5MM) and he couldn't justify waiting around. "I didn't want to make a mistake of being too greedy and trying to wait and wait, get myself in a hole and wait to the last minute," Benoit said.
- Astros GM Ed Wade told Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner that he expects better things from Carlos Lee in 2011 and that last year was an "aberration" for the outfielder.
Happy birthday to two former All-Star catchers! Future Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez turns 39 today, while Angels manager Mike Scioscia turns 52.
Some news items...
- Count Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer as unimpressed by Detroit's contracts with Joaquin Benoit and Jhonny Peralta. Pluto cites Benoit's 4.47 career ERA and Peralta's .696 OPS over his last two seasons.
- The Orioles' failed pursuit of Victor Martinez proves "the issue isn't how much money the Orioles are willing to give somebody. It's whether somebody suitable is willing to take it," writes The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck.
- Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog thinks Manny Ramirez would be a bad fit on the Yankees.
- By the time the sale of the Astros is finalized, the new ownership group should have few salary commitments to deal with, reports Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
- The Giants are betting that other teams don't value Juan Uribe as highly as they do, says CSNBayArea.com's Mychael Urban, which is why the club offered the infielder (a Type B free agent) arbitration. San Francisco thinks Uribe won't be able to find a multi-year deal elsewhere and will thus accept arbitration or re-sign for a $5MM, one-year contract. Even if Uribe does leave for another club, at least the Giants would get a draft pick in compensation.
- Urban also notes that the Giants are "tire-kicking" J.J. Hardy and Miguel Tejada as other infield options. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun predicts Tejada will be the best free agent bargain of the winter.
- In his look at the offseason needs of the AL Central clubs, The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton names Detroit prospects Andy Oliver and Jacob Turner, Minnesota outfield prospects Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere, and Kansas City's Robinson Tejeda and Alex Gordon as young players within the division who could be dealt. (Oliver and Turner only in "major trade talks" since "neither will be cheap.") Dutton adds that Grady Sizemore probably won't be dealt in the winter but "interest should quickly escalate" if Sizemore gets off to a healthy and productive start in 2011.
The Tigers spent $16.5MM on Joaquin Benoit because they considered him one of the best available relievers. And because a couple other clubs also made three-year offers, anything less would have fallen short. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers did not like the idea of losing Benoit to one of his other suitors.
"When you want to get the best players at certain positions, you have to be aggressive and prepared to do things," Dombrowski said on a conference call this morning.
The Tigers will use Benoit as a setup man to closer Jose Valverde in 2011. They have considered adding another left-handed reliever to a bullpen that could include southpaws Daniel Schlereth and Brad Thomas, but Dombrowski says it's not a priority because Valverde and Benoit are effective against hitters from both sides of the plate.
The Tigers are not expecting Benoit to post a 1.34 ERA again, but they believe he'll be a top setup man as long as he's healthy. The 33-year-old passed his physical and says his 2010 production shows he's just fine.
"For me last year it was just to see how my arm was going to respond," Benoit said. "Obviously it came back really good."
Dombrowski says the Tigers have been signing players aggressively since they had a number of free agents and were prepared to make offers right away. But they're not done yet.
"We're still in a position where we think we can make a move and solidify the middle of our lineup with someone," Dombrowski said.
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.
A few more links for Wednesday night...
- In addition to all the other trade targets and free agents they've been eyeing lately, the Rockies have inquired on Andruw Jones, tweets SI.com's Jon Heyman.
- The Mets completed two of their four second-round managerial interviews today. Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork has extensive post-interview remarks from Bob Melvin and a briefer comment from Chip Hale, with Terry Collins and Wally Backman due up tomorrow. Rubin tweets that Sandy Alderson expects to announce the team's new skipper by next Tuesday.
- The Yankees hope to further their discussions with Derek Jeter and Cliff Lee this week, writes Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger. Lee is "about ready to entertain offers," Nolan Ryan tells Heyman (Twitter link).
- Some opinions from past and present Red Sox players: David Ortiz guarantees Vladimir Guerrero will return to the Rangers, while Lou Merloni argues that the Sox need to trade Jonathan Papelbon. The Dallas Morning News and WEEI.com have the details.
- A baseball official tells Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that he could see the Rangers, Brewers, and Blue Jays becoming involved in trade talks for Zack Greinke.
- They've made plenty of moves already this offseason, but the Marlins may not be done yet. Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post passes along a quote (via Twitter) from Larry Beinfest that suggests the team will pursue a starting pitcher.
- MLive's Steve Kornacki thinks Joaquin Benoit is "absolutely" worth the $16.5MM the Tigers spent on him.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports considers Ken Williams' offseason plans - A through E.
Benoit signed a minor league deal with the Rays in February and was one of baseball's best bargains. The righty 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. The 33-year-old was available cheaply because he was coming off rotator cuff surgery performed in January of 2009. This time around, the Tigers had to pay full sticker price.
Two days ago we learned that Padres GM Jed Hoyer is willing to listen to trade offers for Adrian Gonzalez (and Heath Bell), unsurprising since the first baseman is reportedly seeking close to $22MM annually when he becomes a free agent next offseason. In today's blog post (Insider req'd), ESPN's Buster Olney lists a few reasons why the Pads are more likely to wait until the trade deadline to move their franchise player...
- Ticket sales. After surprising success in 2010, the team doesn't want to lose the trust of the fans by dealing their best player before the season.
- The Padres have a chance to compete in 2011 with Gonzalez in the middle of their lineup, but without him it'll be close to impossible.
- Other clubs wanting to acquire Gonzalez might be more desperate during the summer, which could result in a better package for San Diego.
- Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe points out that Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod worked for the Red Sox before joining the Padres, so they have strong first-hand knowledge of Boston's prospects.
Here are the rest of Olney's rumors...
- Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth will dominate the headlines when free agency begins at 12:01am ET Sunday morning, but Olney lists ten more interesting free agents, led by Joaquin Benoit, Pedro Feliciano, and Orlando Hudson.
- The Yankees could place their first bid on Lee very soon, perhaps within 72 hours. Anthony McCarron of The New York Daily News hears something similar.
- Crawford is in a unique situation because he's an elite player that could have six or more teams bidding for his services. Usually players of that caliber only have three or so teams after them.
- The Yankees operate with the knowledge that no matter how popular the individual player is, the team and its fan base will move on. This of course refers to Derek Jeter.