Scouting the Free Agent Market: Joaquin BenoitBy
The Yankees have approached the offseason aggressively — Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran are all big money import signings – particularly now that Robinson Cano has joined the most dysfunctional team in baseball Mariners. The team really can’t afford to stop there though, if they wish to compete in 2014. A quality second/third baseman along with another solid rotation arm is an absolute must. Additionally, the bullpen needs some revamping too. Fortunately, there are several relief options and one such option might come in the form of Joaquin Benoit. Let’s take a look.
- The man knows how to throw strikes (averaged 9.92 K/9 over the past three seasons) and he’s done it in high leverage situations. Benoit’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the park as well (averaged 1.06 HR/9 over the past three seasons) which would obviously be important in the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee stadium. According to PitchFX, Benoit’s fastball velocity has consistently sat around 93 miles per hour over the past few seasons.
- In terms of overall results, in 2013 he pitched to a 2.01 ERA which ranked fifteenth among active relievers (2.87 FIP, 3.16 xFIP). Over the past four seasons he produced a 2.49 ERA (3.13 FIP, 3.04 xFIP). In other words, he’s been productive.
- Benoit has averaged 67 appearances in each of the past four seasons. Although no player is guaranteed to remain healthy over the course of the year, it’s good to see some semblance of durability and consistency – particularly from a player in a role that is notoriously volatile when it comes to health and production.
- Despite Benoit’s effectiveness last season, the Tigers elected to not extend him the qualifying offer. If the Yankees sign him, there would be no draft pick compensation.
- I don’t envy the man who has to take over the closer role now that Mariano Rivera has retired. In a way, I’d rather have an “outsider” come in and face the ninth inning pressures instead of David Robertson. It’s not that I doubt D-Rob’s ability, but we know he can excel in his current role and provide a lot of value, so why screw around with a good thing. In any event, regardless of who closes between the two of them, some much needed depth will be provided to the relief core with the addition of a guy like Benoit.
- Benoit isn’t a kid anymore. Next season, he’ll turn 37 years old. That’s not exactly a deal breaker, but on a team with several older players on its roster already, it’s not exactly ideal either.
- For what it’s worth, Benoit does not have a long history of closer experience. Although he earned 24 saves last season in convincing fashion, he really hasn’t spent much time in the closer role for any extended period of time prior. (I do believe he’s shown himself capable of handling that job though).
- Although there are several closers available this offseason (not to mention Jonathan Papelbon who’s apparently being shopped), Benoit’s price tag will likely wind up being expensive – both in terms of dollars and years ($8-9M / two years maybe?). Multiple years for another aging veteran might not be worth the risk. On the other hand, I suspect most of the quality relief options will require at least two years so maybe that comes with the territory anyway; I suppose the real question comes down to who do you trust out there over the course of a long grueling season.
- Comerica Park is a pretty big stadium, and is certainly a pitcher’s paradise compared to the small confines of Yankees Stadium. Benoit won’t turn into a pumpkin overnight, but his stats will inflate some for sure in NY (though this can be said for any pitcher coming to NY really). Fortunately, he does have good strike out stuff which should help.
The Tigers decision to not give Benoit the qualifying offer doesn’t feel like one of those situations where they know something about him that everyone else doesn’t. I really do think it’s a matter of dollars and cents, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers ultimately try to retain his services. As far as the Yankees are concerned, adding one more quality arm with strikeout ability to the bullpen sounds like a great idea. I’d be all for it.