Washington Nationals Trade Targets: Joaquin Benoit

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With the Washington Nationals placing David Carpenter on the disabled list yesterday due to shoulder inflammation, there is currently a need in the Nats’ bullpen for a right-handed reliever. As the trade deadline is less than two weeks away, President Of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo will look to get creative in finding ways to improve his team.

Even though the Carpenter DL move is retroactive to July 12, the Nats could still use another experienced arm in the bullpen, despite having the sixth lowest ‘pen ERA in the National League (3.30) that can further enhance the bridge to Drew Storen. One name that might be on the market for the Nats to acquire is Padres’ setup man Joaquin Benoit.

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In Jon Heyman’s Inside Baseball Column yesterday, he notes that while San Diego hasn’t deemed themselves as a seller just yet, Benoit could be one of those players that gets dealt because he will be a free agent at the end of the year:

"“San Diego people suggest they haven’t determined they are a full-scale seller, but most believe the free-agent eligible players, including Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable, have a decent chance to go. Of Benoit, one competing GM said he has “big value.” (h/t CBS Sports)"

The 37-year-old right-hander is 6-4 this season with a 2.39 ERA in 39 games. The 13-year veteran has held opponents to a .148 batting average this season. However, even in a pitcher’s park like PETCO, Benoit has been a better road pitcher this season. He has a 2.28 ERA in 24 road appearances (2.57 ERA in 15 home games).

Benoit does have experience closing games, such as when he saved 24 games for the Tigers in 2013, but he is not a guy who will come in and chase Storen out of the closer role. Even at age 37, his average velocity is still 94 miles per hour and he has used his changeup a career high 35% of the time (according to Fangraphs).

Plus, if you are the Nationals, you want a reliever that has experience getting the big outs in the postseason. While most remember Benoit for giving up the game tying grand slam to David Ortiz in the 2013 ALCS, it’s easy to forget that his postseason ERA in 20 career appearances is 2.82 (dating back to 2010).

The Padres could get some key pieces in return back in this kind of a deal based on the friendly contract Benoit has. He is not going to finish 55 games this season, which means his $8 million option won’t be guaranteed. If a team does not want to re-sign him, they can buy him out for $1.5 million. The Nats have a similar buyout option for Casey Janssen, but he has a mutual option for $7 million.

The one problem I think the Nats would have in making this kind of a deal is that Padres’ General Manager A.J. Preller will be looking to recoup some pieces for his farm system after dealing Trea Turner and Joe Ross to the Nats this winter.

While the Nationals shouldn’t break the bank for Benoit, this is another reliever that they could use as a rental that won’t cost as much on the trade market as a high end closer (i.e Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman) and Benoit is an experienced reliever that can get key outs in the postseason, should the Nats get there.

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