Padres Sign Benoit

It has been reported that the Padres have signed reliever Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5 million deal.

I’m not so sure this was the right move to make, for two reasons.

First is Joaquin Benoit. Yes, it’s true that he was lights out last year with the Tigers: he had a 2.01  ERA with 24 saves in 26 chances, and he held opposing batters to a .197 BAA. However, he is 36. How much gas does he have left? A year’s worth?

Furthermore, Benoit’s career numbers are okay, but they’re not that great: he has a 4.11 ERA. Granted, much of this came early on in his career as a starter with Texas, which is in the American League and home to a hitter’s ballpark. But it was 3.68 in ’12 and 5.00 in ’08.

Second, the Padres’ biggest needs are elsewhere: I have said before that should the Padres trade one of their relievers (as they did with Luke Gregerson), they have plenty of in-house talent to make up for it: Neil Vincent, Dale Thayer, even Burch Smith would be good eighth inning go-to guys.

More to the point, they are in desperate needs for offensive upgrades at 1B, 3B, and RF (Carlos Quentin is cemented in LF and is untradeable since he is often injured and signed to a hefty contract for the next two years). It would have been nice to see them splurge and aim for Shin-Soo Choo, although that might be wishful thinking. But they could have tried to trade for Yeonis Cespedes or Dominic Brown. They have the pieces: they could have offered a starting pitcher (Ian Kennedy, Robbie Erlin, Smith, or Eric Stults), Will Venable, and perhaps a minor leaguer to beef up their offense.

Instead, they landed Seth Smith. I’m not totally down on him, as they needed better lefty bats–their ’13 team average against right-handed pitchers (.241) was unacceptable, and hitting righties is his specialty (.279 career). But I am underwhelmed by this move. Like many Padre fans, I wanted someone a little more hefty.

At any rate, this signing points towards the Padres’ ’14 game plan: they are hoping that…

  • 1B Yonder Alonso and 3B Chase Headley bounce back from subpar years;
  • Jedd Gyorko develops from a powerful (if uneven) rookie season
  • SS Everth Cabrera picks up from where he left off prior to his suspension;
  • Quentin can play at least 100 games;
  • CF Cameron Maybin’s wrist is fully healed;
  • C Nick Hundley can hang in there until June when Yasmani Grandal comes back from a potentially devastating injury, and that he will then pick it up offensively;
  • the RF platoon of Will Venable and Chris Denorfia will continue to do well–although adding Smith, who figures to get at least 250 at-bats, will figure into the mix. Then hopefully, Rymer Liriano will be fully recovered from his elbow reconstruction surgery to make his big league debut in September, and take over full-time in ’15.
  • the starting pitching, led by Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and a recovering Corey Luebke will carry them.

With the moves they have made so far, the Padres have improved from ’13, but probably only by 5-6 games. This will make them a .500 team, which is not where they and their fans had hoped they would be, especially given their new ownership.

Thankfully, the off-season is not yet over. Perhaps the big trade is still coming. Until then, their latest moves (signing Benoit and trading for Smith) will help a little, but not much more than that. And frankly, the money they dished out to Benoit would have been better spent elsewhere.

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