The Washington Nationals signed veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year deal on Monday afternoon. Here’s how it will affect the team.
2018 is a unique season for the Washington Nationals. They have several high-profile players in contract years, a new coaching staff in place, and could potentially have a set of brothers on the active roster together for the first time in team history.
However, none of these are as odd as the fact that the Nats are entering the season with a strong bullpen. They have begun the season with a weak bullpen in each of the last few years, which they eventually addressed at the trade deadline. Entering the season with a strong bullpen should be a nice change.
Although the Nats have a strong bullpen, they do not have much organizational depth. At least that was the case until very recently. On Monday afternoon, the Nats unexpectedly signed Joaquin Benoit to a one-year deal.
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Benoit is not the flashy addition that Nats fans may have been hoping for, but he could be a productive member of the bullpen in 2018.
Despite the fact that Benoit is 40 years old, he has still managed to remain effective. 2017 was a bit of a down year for the veteran reliever, as he pitched to a 4.65 ERA, but he had strung together seven straight solid seasons before that. He even had an ERA below 3.00 in six of these seven seasons.
Now, Benoit will look to rebound with the Nats.
The Nats did not appear to have a glaring need for a reliever, but signing Benoit was a wise move. Koda Glover has not thrown at all this spring due to shoulder inflammation and Shawn Kelley is coming off of a dreadful, injury-riddled season.
Between Glover and Kelley, among others, the Nats have several question marks in the bullpen. Adding Benoit helps them prepare for the worst in each of these scenarios.
If Benoit is unable to return to form, he should at least be able to eat innings. He has established himself as a workhorse, pitching at least 50 innings in 13 of his 15 major league seasons. It would also not cost much to release him, if the Nats choose to do so, since his contract is only worth $1 million.
However, there is reason to believe Benoit can be effective, even at 40. Last year, his fastball averaged 95 miles per hour, so he has not lost any velocity throughout his aging process. As a matter of fact, his fastball has actually gained a little velocity over the last few years.
When Benoit complements his power fastball with his changeup and slider, he can be a devastating matchup.
Benoit also provides a great veteran presence and lots of postseason experience. He has pitched to a 2.82 ERA in 22.1 postseason innings, including two scoreless appearances in the 2012 World Series.
Although Mike Rizzo specializes in late signings, as we saw with Matt Albers, Adam Lind, and Matt Wieters last year, signing Benoit may have been Dave Martinez‘s idea. Benoit had arguably the best season of his career with the Rays in 2010, while Martinez served as the bench coach.
Martinez recently brought in one of his former players, Miguel Montero, and Benoit may be a similar case.
If Benoit is able to rebound with the Nats, he can serve as a valuable middle reliever. However, if he is not, it would not be extremely detrimental. This is exactly the type of low-risk, high-reward signing that could pay huge dividends.