San Diego Padres’ reliever and set-up man Joaquin Benoit made himself a pretty penny this past off-season, by showing his versatility at the back end of ball games. For those unaware, Benoit came to San Diego from Detroit, having served as the closer due to failed attempts to get Bruce Rondon settled in as a rookie, and a grease fire attempt at reuniting with former closer Jose Valverde. When the chips were down for the Motor City Bengals, it was Benoit who took the bump at the end of the day.
Unfortunately for Benoit and the Tigers, he is indeed human. During last season’s American League Championship Series, Benoit gave up what many believe, was a series-momentum shifting home run to David Ortiz, which helped propel the Boston Red Sox to their third World Series championship since 2004. During the winter, rather than bring Benoit back as their closer, the Tigers allowed him to leave via free agency, where he had several offers on the table, including one from the New York Yankees. He declined that offer and instead ended up in beautiful San Diego as Huston Street‘s set-up man/night off closer.
With the changes in the front office that have occurred over the past couple of weeks, and the sorry play of the Padres throughout 2014, both Street and Benoit have been reported to now be available to teams looking for bullpen help. As the song “Reunited” says…”Reunited and it feels so good.” The Tigers signed the big league’s active leader in saves in Joe Nathan. Detroit is still having back-end of the bullpen issues, and now according to Bob Nightingale of USA Today, Benoit’s former employer is “…quite interested” in reacquiring their former closer.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 2, 2014
Now whether Benoit would be used to replace Nathan is purely speculation, but a reliever who has a proven track record with a team, within a division, and has postseason experience are pluses for any team at this point in the season. The Tigers Achillies’ heel to grasping that elusive World Series crown has been bullpen issues over the past several years. By trading for Benoit, the Tigers do nothing but strengthen a weakness, and perhaps the combination of both he and Nathan can finally put the Tigers over the top.
What’s in it for the Padres? If the team has decided to go into complete rebuild-mode, unloading a contract of an older player for prospects is a good start. Most believe that at a minimum, Street will be dealt, while Benoit has become a hot topic over the past week or so. If the Padres unload both of them, who becomes the closer? Odds are good that Bud Black goes with a closer-by-committee, but as Street and Benoit would both testify, hard to save something you don’t have a lead in.