The veteran right-handed reliever joins a Seattle bullpen in need of a consistent right-handed arm. 'I feel like this is both a stabilizing and impact move for the back end of our bullpen,' GM Jerry Dipoto said.
General manager Jerry Dipoto continues to retool the Seattle Mariners’ roster, addressing one of the team’s bigger reasons for the failures of 2015 — the bullpen.
On Thursday morning, the Mariners completed a trade with the San Diego Padres, acquiring veteran right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit for a pair of minor-leaguers who spent last season at the Class A level — right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos and infielder Nelson Ward.
“I feel like this is both a stabilizing and impact move for the back end of our bullpen,” Dipoto said in a conference call. “(Benoit is) obviously near 40 years old, but he hasn’t lost his effectiveness, and he still continues to turn in quality performances year after year. He’s been durable and effective in every way. I feel like this was a target for us as we went into the offseason, and I’m very happy to bring him on board.”
Benoit, 38, appeared in 67 games in 2015, posting a 2.34 ERA in 65 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .159 (36 for 226), and he was particularly effective against right-handers, who posted a slash line of .144/.250/.221 against him. He’s owed $7.5 million for next season.
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“I was actually able to have seen him live in September,” Dipoto said. “He’s still mid- to upper-90s with his fastball. He’ll sit 94 to 96 on a given night. He’s got a power changeup. It’s just a dive bomb. It almost has the effect of a split-finger. Additionally, I think he has what is an above-average, major-league slider. So a three-pitch back-end guy with three out pitches at any given moment and that changeup just gives him a wipeout pitch to both sides of the plate. He’s been durable. He’s a good fit for our ballpark and any ballpark.”
Benoit slots into a bullpen in need of a consistent right-handed arm to go with Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen. Benoit could even be the Mariners’ closer if they choose to move Wilhelmsen back to a setup role. Benoit has experience in the closing role. He saved 24 games for the Tigers in 2013 and 11 games for the Padres in 2014.
“Where he pitches in a game is going to be up to (manager) Scott Servais and (pitching coach) Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and Joaquin himself, based on his thoughts and performance,” Dipoto said. “He’ll join Tom Wilhelmsen, Carson Smith and hopefully Charlie Furbush as the quartet that make up the back end of our games. There’s a lot of offseason left. I don’t anticipate this being the last addition we make in our bullpen.”
But getting a reliever that has some experience in that role was needed.
“I think it’s important,” Dipoto said. “His experiences include closing. He closed for a very good Detroit team a few years ago. He has had that experience in the past. Whether it’s in the set up role or potentially the closing role is yet to be determined. But it gives Scott quite a few options to choose from — they are high-end power pitchers at the back of the bullpen. Joaquin has been a sought-after target on the trade market for quite some time. It’s not the first time I’ve personally tried to acquire him.”
Padres general manager A.J. Preller said the move was a way to lower payroll.
De Los Santos, 19, is coming off his first season in professional baseball, splitting time between the Arizona Rookie League and Short-A Everett. He posted a 6-0 record with a 3.47 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 71 in 62 1/3 innings thanks to a mid-90s fastball.
Ward, 23, started the season with Class A Clinton and was promoted to Class A Bakersfield. He hit .278 with 19 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 55 RBI in 122 games.
More Dipoto notes
Dipoto also commented on the re-signing of outfielder Franklin Gutierrez.
“He’s coming off just a tremendous year, and I think we might have found the sweet spot for Franklin right now in just the way he’s used and the way he’s asked to contribute and understanding how to manage his own personal situation,” Dipoto said. “This was a no-brainer for us. We love his make-up. We love what he brings to our clubhouse. The fact that he wanted to be in Seattle and we wanted to bring him back made it as simple as it gets.”
Much like last season, Gutierrez is expected to operate in a platoon-like setup with Seth Smith.
“Right now our hope is that whether it be in a matchup vs. left-handed pitchers or more of a platoon situation with Seth Smith that it provides us with a high-impact position with two of them together,” Dipoto said. “It doesn’t limit either with the ability to face same-handed pitchers, but right now we view that as a tandem that really gives us an advantage at that position.”