Detroit Tigers free agency primer: Joaquin Benoit is a hypothetical fit

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16: Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16: Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Detroit Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Al Avila should look into signing veteran free agent Joaquin Benoit to help shore up the bullpen.

Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, along with pitching coach Chris Bosio and bullpen coach Rick Anderson, will largely be working with a young bullpen in 2018.

Outside of Shane Greene and Alex Wilson, there aren’t many, if any, established options.

Daniel Stumpf may be the closest to the duo in terms of having a gig assured in the relief corps heading into next season, but after the southpaw there’s a long list of inconsistent hurlers and promising pitching prospects with little to no Major League experience.

There certainly isn’t a lack of potential.

Joe Jimenez and Bruce Rondon have each been labeled as Detroit’s closer of the future for significant stretches at one point or another.

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There’s also Bryan Garcia, who finished second in Detroit’s minor league system with 17 saves in 52 appearances last season.

Outside of the trio, the Tigers could utilize some combination of Jairo Labourt, Zac Reininger, Drew VerHagen, Paul Voelker, Adam Ravenelle, Victor Alcantara, Mark Ecker and possibly Gerson Moreno in relief next season.

With so much youth, it wouldn’t hurt for Detroit to add another veteran arm to pair with Greene and Wilson late in games.

That way, the team’s younger and inexperienced relievers can be eased into late-game situations, or the Majors in general.

Joaquin Benoit

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One hypothetical fit is Joaquin Benoit.

The veteran spent three seasons in Detroit from 2011 to 2013. He twice notched a fWAR north of 1.0 with a 1.1 mark in 2011 and a 1.4 mark in 2013.

Since then, the reliever has pitched for five different teams, including San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

By and large, he’s been successful.

The 40-year-old turned in a 2.20 ERA, a 3.33 FIP, a .9666 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 167.2 innings from 2014 to 2016.

However, Benout wasn’t as successful this past season.

Signed by the Phillies before being flipped to the Pirates at the trade deadline, the former Tiger saw his ERA and FIP balloon to 4.65 and 4.51 respectively despite his BABIP rising just a mere percentage point from .262 in 2016 to .263 last year.

Rebound potential?

All that being said, the veteran could be a fit in Detroit as a bounce-back candidate.

In this hypoethetical scenario, the Tigers would eventually trade him for more prospects.

The right-hander is still throwing hard, with his average fastball velocity actually rising a smidgen from 94.9 (per FanGraphs) in 2016 to 95.0 in 2017.

Elsewhere, Benoit also continued to miss bats, with a 13.3% swinging strike percentage.

It was his lowest mark in the category since the 2008 season with the Texas Rangers.

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However, Benoit still ranked in the top third of the league (46th among 155 qualified relievers) in the metric.

For reference none of Detroit’s three qualified relivers—Greene, Wilson and Warwick Saupold—even cracked double digits in terms of swinging strike percentage.

Among Detroit Tigers relievers with at least 10 innings pitched, only the since-traded Justin Wilson topped Benoit’s swinging strike percentage.

Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Benoit owns a 3.05 ERA, a 1.046 WHIP and 138 strikeouts in 138.2 lifetime innings at Comerica Park.

Proven trade commodity

Benoit has been traded on three different occasions since leaving the Tigers. In two of those cases, he brought back prospects.

San Diego flipped him to Seattle in November of 2015 for two prospects in Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward. currently has De Los Santos as the Padres’ 13th-best prospect.

Meanwhile, Benoit netted the Phillies bullpen prospect Seth McGarry.

While McGarry doesn’t appear on’s list of the top 30 Philadelphia prospects, he did turn in a cumulative 2.32 ERA, 0.994 WHIP and 55 strikeouts in 54.1 innings at the Advanced-A level last season.

In conclusion

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If the Detroit Tigers can sign Joaquin Benoit to a short-term contract, rebuild his trade value over the first half of the season while easing the pressure on the team’s young relievers, and then trade him for some kind of prospect return in July, it would be a definite win for the franchise.