While the Indians bullpen has been steady, they have been linked to a number of relievers on the market over the past few weeks. Here’s a look at current Padres closer Joaquin Benoit.
Why he’s available…
Because the Padres stink.
The Padres are 12 games under .500, have already traded Huston Street and Chase Headley and are in full rebuilding mode. Benoit may be their next most valuable asset to move, at least among the veterans on the roster.
Why the Indians want him…
Because John Axford stinks.
Cody Allen‘s emergence as one of the league’s most dominant closers over the past few months certainly makes this less of a need, but the Indians could still use an extra arm in the pen. After all, there’s a reason they went after Axford last offseason.
While the bullpen has been solid, there really isn’t much depth, especially if they’re looking for another right-handed arm. Between Nick Hagadone, Josh Outman and Scott Barnes, they have plenty of options if they need another lefty, but C.C. Lee, Austin Adams, Mark Lowe and the corpse of Vinnie Pestano are the only right-handed options who aren’t already full-time members of the bullpen.
According to Jon Heyman (via MLB Trade Rumors), the Indians showed interest in Benoit last offseason before he signed with San Diego, so it’s certainly reasonable to assume he’s on their radar screen.
Can they afford him?
Long term? Probably not. He’s due $8M in 2015 and 2016 which is well out of the Indians’ price range for a reliever. But if the Tribe wants to rent him for the remainder of 2014 and put him back on the trade market this offseason, they could certainly get something in return for one of the best setup men in baseball over the past five seasons.
If the Indians want another bullpen arm, they must be thrilled that the Angels and Tigers—the two teams with the biggest need and the most to offer—have already made their trades. With the pool of interested teams whittled down, the Indians can probably get Benoit for very little, assuming they’re willing to take on the risk of the final two years of his contract.
Pittsburgh is a potential option for Benoit, although they’re in the same financial situation as the Indians. Toronto is another team that is in win-now mode and could out-bid the Tribe.