The San Diego Padres made the signing of Joaquin Benoit official on Saturday afternoon. The 36 year old Benoit will earn $15.5M over the next two seasons and the deal includes a vesting option worth $8M for 2016 (based on 55 games finished in 2015). According to Corey Brock of MLB.com (Twitter) the club buyout portion of the 2015 option will be determined on games finished.
After missing the 2009 season recovering from rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder he has appeared no fewer than 63 games in any season.
Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes has little concern about the durability of his newest reliever. “I think relievers holding up through advanced age – obviously two of the best in Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman – and currently Joe Nathan. Hopefully, he can continue. Right now he’s got a power fastball and a devastating changeup and throws strikes.” Byrnes said. “There’s a lot of things not totally relying on velocity to get his outs.”
Huston Street has been the Padres closer the last two seasons finishing last season with 33 saves and the signing of Benoit does not change his 2014 situation but may have some impact on whether or not the Padres pick up his 2015 option valued at $7M. Byrnes has not spoke to street since signing Benoit but believes that Street understands, “I think Huston is a pro and I really don’t think anythings really changes here. He’s been our closer two years pitched really well. He’ll go to spring training and be our closer again.” As for the 2015 option Byrnes believes that Street understands that independent of this signing there’s nothing guaranteed for him.
In order to make room on the 40-man roster the Padres designated pitcher Adys Portillo for assignment. The addition of Benoit does not close the door on the Padres bullpen acquisitions this winter. Both Rule 5 draftee Patrick Schuster and Cory Luebke (returning from Tommy John surgery) will be given an opportunity to land a spot as one of the left handers to join the bullpen the search will continue for a more established left-handed arm.
According to Byrnes the acquisition will most likely come via a trade or a buy low free agent signing. “There’s not much left out there.” said Byrnes. “I don’t see us spending a whole lot on it financially. I think we’re either going to trade for or find a free agent that we may be able to buy low.”
On the free agent front both lefties Rich Hill and Mike Gonzalez are available on buy low options. One player for the Padres fans to keep an eye on via trade is out of options Indians lefty Nick Hagadone. Hill appeared in 62 games for the Indians in 2013 posting an ugly 6.28 ERA in 63 games and Gonzalez appeared in 75 games with the Milwaukee Brewers pitching to a 4.68 ERA. Nick Hagadone spent the year bouncing between the Indians Triple-A affiliate Columbus Clippers to the Indians. While with the Indians he appeared in 36 games and pitched to a 5.46 ERA.