Phillies Expected to Sign Joaquin Benoit

UPDATE: According to Matt Gelb, the deal is worth $7.5 million.

According to Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have reached an agreement with right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, pending a physical. Benoit split last season almost evenly between the Mariners and the Blue Jays. He was terrible in Seattle and amazing in Toronto, and the main culprit (as these things usually go) was an increased walk rate and home run rate in Seattle. Taken as a whole, his last season was not very different from his prior seasons, once you account for his advanced age. I think it would be unwise to expect better than the 2.81 ERA he posted over 48 innings in 2017.

The exact amount Benoit will be paid in 2017 has not yet been announced, but he had his $7.8 million team option declined by the Blue Jays, so it’s safe to assume he’ll make something less than that in his one-year deal with the Phillies.

Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2006, Benoit has thrown 633.2 innings with a 2.95 ERA with 26.8 K% and a 9.1 BB%. Those are excellent numbers and could immediately make Benoit the best reliever on the Phillies. However, age, injury, and the home run ball could conspire to sap his effectiveness. In those past 11 seasons, Benoit twice allowed more than 1.0 home run per 9 innings. In both seasons, he was a replacement-level reliever. He also ended last season on the DL with a torn calf, and he’ll be 40 years old in July. For that reason, it’s possible that Benoit fails his physical.

Aside from an 80-grade name, Benoit brings a mid-nineties fastball, a slider that sits around 86 MPH, and a changeup that averages 84. He relies heavily on his fastball, using it about 55% of the time last year, mixed with 26% changeups and 18% sliders. He also threw a handful of curveballs. In his more effective time with the Blue Jays, Benoit used more sliders and fewer changeups, so perhaps we should expect that to continue into next season.

Whether or not Benoit is effective next season, he should at least provide guidance and set a good example for the young players on the Phillies roster, and it seems like that’s been a priority of the Phillies management this offseason. Of the players on the Phillies 40-man roster, the ten relievers likely to pitch this year have tallied a combined 703 games and just over 1000 innings in their careers. Benoit has eclipsed those totals by himself, and he and the recently acquired Pat Neshek (from the Astros) have themselves combined for 1135 games and 1401.2 innings pitched in their long careers.

The elder duo has also combined to pitch 32.2 postseason innings over 33 games, while the rest of the Phillies possible relievers have pitched four innings in just one postseason game (Jeanmar Gomez in 2013 for the Pirates). This could also make the relievers valuable to a playoff contender near the trade deadline if they start the season strong. While those two moves don’t figure to move the needle much on the Phillies’ overall talent this year, they have bolstered an area of weakness and youth for the young team for only about $10-15 million combined and for just one year. For a team capable of sustaining a high payroll, that seems like a good investment.

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