Byrnes Can’t Be Serious About Benoit, Can He?
Assuming the rumors of the Padres interest in UFA reliever Joaquin Benoit are accurate and the reports of their willingness to offer him two years at approximately $7MM per are true, consider me amongst the most befuddled Friar fans out there. I have never been one to buy into the idea of teams paying big money for relief pitchers. I defended the Luke Gregerson trade on its surface simply because I believed the Padres could adequately replace his production with cheaper options and at least they acquired a decent (emphasis on the word decent) bat in return (and they needed a quality LH bat). However it is indefensible for Byrnes to consider committing that much of his limited payroll to a pitcher likely to throw no more than 70 – 75 innings this year.
First off, Byrnes already has his big money bullpen piece in Huston Street, whom the Padres GM thought enough of to reward with a multiyear deal guaranteeing the team’s closer $7MM per through the 2014 season with an option on 2015. Presumably Street will again be the Padres primary 9th inning option this season. That means Benoit would be in line to be the 8th inning guy, replacing Gregerson for all intents and purposes, and get a handful of save opportunities along the way.
The thought was that the roughly $5MM Gregerson was projected to make through arbitration would be better spent on a bat; and I agreed with that. In that case, how does it make sense for them to pay out more money while committing to an additional year for a reliever who may or may not be any better than they guy they already had? It doesn’t.
What would have made sense was the Padres keeping Gregerson and spending $7MM (or even more) on a better bat than Seth Smith. Again, I think Smith will be a useful player but the Padres could have signed Nate McLouth, who is versatile enough to play CF, for less than $7MM annually (he signed a two-year deal with Washington for $11MM). If not McLouth then David DeJesus (signed with Tampa for two years, $10.5MM guaranteed) or David Murphy (two years, $12MM with Cleveland) would have been options. The point is that there had to be a better way to allocate the team’s resources than trading a young, proven reliever for a limited bat and signing an older reliever.
I want to believe in this front office. I think they have done a pretty good job of drafting young talent to the organization and even though it hasn’t worked out well, extending good young players early on in their careers is typically a good strategy for a small to mid-market club. But moves like these are head-scratchers. While you could argue the Padres will be a better team with Benoit in the bullpen and Smith’s decent LH bat in the lineup against righties, the Friars failed to efficiently allocate their limited financial resources.