With pitching a primary concern heading into the 2013 offseason, the Los Angeles Angels should pursue free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit.
The 11-year veteran had a solid season with the Detroit Tigers in 2013 as he had a 2.01 ERA with a 4-1 record, 73 strikeouts, 24 saves, 1.08 WHIP and nine holds in 67.0 innings pitched. Benoit showed his versatility as a pitcher as he moved to being the Tigers’ closer last season and was very successful by converting 24 out of 26 save opportunities.
In three of the last four seasons, Benoit has posted a sub-3.00 ERA and over that span averaged 73 strikeouts in 64.2 innings pitched. In the 2010 regular season with the Tampa Bay Rays, he had his best year in the majors as he had career-bests in ERA (1.34), WHIP (0.68) and walks allowed (11) to go along with a 1-2 record, 25 holds and 75 strikeouts in 60.1 innings pitched.
The Angels may hesitate to sign the right-hander as he struggled in the ALCS of the 2013 postseason against the Boston Red Sox as he gave up runs in both of his last two appearances in the series, with one of them being a blown save in a Game 2 6-5 loss at Fenway Park to tie the series at 1-1. But prior to the last two appearances in the playoffs, Benoit had recorded three saves in four games and allowed just two runs over 4.1 innings pitched.
Nonetheless, the addition of Benoit to the Halos’ bullpen would be another step in the right direction to solidifying the back end of the bullpen by using the 36-year-old as a setup man or the team’s closer if Ernesto Frieri were to struggle in that role. The pairing of Benoit and Joe Smith, who the Angels signed to a three-year, $15.75 million deal last month, would setup a solid rotation of pitching for the team from the seventh through the ninth.
But if the Angels do indeed want to go this route, they must act quickly as it has been reported on Tuesday that Benoit was receiving interest from the San Diego Padres. The bottom line here is that if the Halos want to continue to improve their pitching staff, they have an opportunity to do so by adding a proven relief pitcher in Benoit.