Is Joaquin Benoit Really Here to Just Set-up?


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Two years, $15.5 Million, huh? That’s a lot of money. Arbitration hearings haven’t taken place yet but, assuming Chase Headley gets over $7.75 Million (which he will), Benoit would be the fourth highest paid player on the team. Benoit’s $7.75 Million a year would rank him behind Carlos Quentin ($9.5 Million), Chase Headley (approximately $9 Million) and Josh Johnson ($8 Million) and just ahead of Huston Street ($7 Million). There aren’t many Closers in the $7 Million range that make less than the set-up man who pitches the inning before them. There is a club option on Street for next season at $7 Million so, there isn’t much chance that the Padres will re-sign him to increase his salary any time soon.

All of this begs the question, why would you pay a set-up man who has similar stats to your closer more money than your closer while trading a similar set-up man who makes less? Luke Gregerson was traded prior to the Benoit signing, presumably to make room for Benoit. But, maybe not. Maybe Benoit wasn’t signed to be the set-up man at all. Clearly he can close games just as well as Street and strikes out two more batters per inning than Street. According to Ian Casselberry, Street’s drop in strikeouts along with the rise in home runs allowed could be the reason behind the Benoit signing.

Cliff Corcoran at SI thinks that it would take a losing season in order for the Padres to feel that they need to trade Street. Jesse Spector of The Sporting News doesn’t lean one way or the other on whether Street will be traded but he does mention that Street’s numbers are similar to those of former Oriole closer Jim Johnson. Johnson was traded to the Athletics for second baseman Jemile Weeks and catching prospect David Freitas. If the Padres could get a similar return for Street, would it be wrong to trade him prior to the season and give Benoit the job before camp?

Justin Hunter at Gaslamp Ball thinks that Street could be traded. He also points out that the Padres have said they are not “actively” trying to trade Street. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t receiving plenty of calls right about now. I would wager that the Orioles have already been in contact after their contract with Grant Balfour was nixed after a physical. After trading Jim Johnson and having a falling out with Balfour, the Orioles would probably be the most likely to pull off a trade for Street. Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia is more like the left handed bat that Padres fans would have preferred acquiring rather than Seth Smith. Add in a reliever like Ryan Webb or Darren O’Day and the Padres probably would not miss Street at all.

Josh Byrnes has implied that there is still more in store. It remains to be seen whether what’s in store is a blockbuster involving Street or just some type of procedural move to make room on the roster for Joaquin Benoit. Stay tuned. We may not be done just yet!