Originally published in The Tigers Den Blog | 18 November 2010
On Wednesday, the Tigers came to a contract agreement with Joaquin Benoit, a set-up relief pitcher who exploded onto the major league scene with Tampa Bay last year after missing the entire 2009 season recovering from torn rotator cuff surgery.
The deal, while not official yet, is for three years and will be worth $16.5 million dollars, an explosive sum considering his role (it is the second highest contract given to a relief pitcher in MLB history) but it is, in the Tigers case, a necessary one.
The importance of quality relief is becoming ever more popular given the play by play (and sometimes inane banter) from our wonderfully objective ESPN morning announcers. I can’t tell you how many times last year I heard a relief pitcher being blamed for a team’s loss (yet rarely acknowledged for getting the job done). Yet, in reality, due to the successes of teams such as the Giants and Padres, and failures by teams like the Tigers and Red sox (just as examples) in those relief roles, there actually is a premium for strong relief help, and the Tigers proved that by inking Benoit for the next three years.
Sure, three years for a 33 year old relief pitcher is concerning, as is over $5m per year to pitch in the eighth inning, but it’s not necessarily a bad signing. Think about this? How many times last year didwe have to watch a starting pitcher’s lead unfold in the seventh or eighth inning, or see Leyland slowly walk out to bring Jose Valverde in for a four or five out save (which incidentally led to his second half collapse)?
The answer? Too many.
The need to sign a top reliever was right up there next to signing a pair of quality bats this offseason, and the choice in Benoit is a high risk high reward scenario, but it’s a good one given the fact that Dave Dombrowski has a checklist (Third baseman? Check. Short Stop? Check. Relief Pitcher? Check. Left Fielder? Catcher? Right Fielder?) and he’s moving through that checklist with a sense of urgency.
Rumors of Adam Dunn were swirling earlier on Wednesday, and no one else has signed anywhere, save for John Buck who just inked his own 3 year $15m contract with….Florida (I didn’t realize they signed free agents?). So, the Tigers have proved to be nothing short of aggressive so far.
It can’t stop, it shouldn’t, and it won’t.
Coming soon…Victor Martinez anyone?