Time changes a lot of things. Last season the Pittsburgh Pirates had a bullpen that was lights out. When the bullpen took the ball, the game was over. This year has been the complete opposite. The bullpen has blown several leads and last year’s closer, Jason Grilli, was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. The team is now said to be searching for bullpen help wherever they can find it.
One name that has come up in recent days is Joaquin Benoit. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Pirates, along with the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, have called the San Diego Padres about their set up man. Benoit seems like a player that the Pirates could use, but he wouldn’t be as much of an upgrade as he appears.
Benoit has put up great numbers this year, including one of the highest strikeout rates of his career, a very low walk rate an he also has an ERA of 1.99. Digging deeper, Benoit’s advanced stats suggest he is not the pitcher those stats suggest. He has an xFIP of 2.98, suggesting regression. Benoit is also hiding a dirty secret within those stats. He is pitching in San Diego for most of his games and the Padres’ ballpark is seen as the most pitcher friendly ballpark in the majors. And, when he pitches in San Diego, he has a very low ERA. When Benoit pitches outside of his home stadium, he gives up more than two runs more per game. So, taking him out of his home park could make him much less effective.
More bad news comes along with Benoit. He is owed $8 million next season and has an option for the same amount in 2016. This is too much money for a small market team like the Pirates to spend on a relief pitcher. The Padres are also reported to be looking for a similar return package for Benoit as they got for Huston Street. The Angels gave up some of their top prospects for Street, so not only would the Pirates have to pay a lot of money to Benoit over the next two years, they would also have to give up some good prospects for him.
Overall, I just don’t think it is a good idea to bring Benoit into the bullpen. He would cost too much in terms of money and in terms of prospects. The Pirates should focus more on trading for a middle inning reliever or another undervalued pitcher in someone’s farm system. But if the Pirates really want Joaquin Benoit and won’t settle for anything less, I hope they don’t give up any of their top 10 prospects to acquire him.