In 2013, career setup man Joaquin Benoit became the Detroit Tigers‘ closer after Jose Valverde‘s three-and-a-half year tenure in the Motor City was finally brought to an end. Benoit ended up going 24-for-26 in save opportunities, while posting a 2.01 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP overall. He also recorded 73 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched.
This past offseason, the Tigers allowed the 36-year-old Benoit to depart via free agency, and he ended up getting a pretty nice payday from the San Diego Padres, which was reportedly worth two years and $15.5 million. He is no longer a closer, as that is a job that belongs to Huston Street out in San Diego. Instead, he finds himself back in the setup role, which is a job he is much more familiar with. He has gone 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP so far this season. Those numbers would surely look nice at the back-end of the Tigers’ bullpen at the moment.
Instead of signing Benoit, the Tigers decided to ink former foe Joe Nathan, who is turning out to be a $20 million disaster. The Tigers were also planning on Bruce Rondon, the 23-year-old flamethrower, to be their setup man. This made the possibility of bringing Benoit back for the eighth inning role seem moot. Then came Spring Training, though, when it was announced that Rondon would be undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the entire season.
One cannot blame the Tigers for letting Benoit go, however. No one could have foreseen Rondon’s injury and no one would have predicted that Nathan was going to be this much of a disappointment, despite the fact that he is 39 years old. After all, Nathan saved 43 games while posting a microscopic 1.39 ERA for the Texas Rangers just a season ago.
That said, it is now beginning to look like the Tigers would have been better off signing Benoit to be their closer, and perhaps they would have if they could have known what lay ahead. Benoit had clearly grown comfortable in a Tigers uniform since first putting it on in 2011, and he was seemingly growing accustomed to the closer’s role. After performing so well as the Tigers’ door-slammer down the stretch last season, it would have been nice if they would have simply stuck with him and brought him back with the money they spent on Nathan.