Mariners Move to Bolster Bullpen, Trade for Relief Pitcher Benoi - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Mariners Move to Bolster Bullpen, Trade for Relief Pitcher Benoit

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Benoit, who's worked mostly in a set-up role the last few seasons, should help strengthen the back of Seattle's bullpen. (Photo Courtesy: Seattle Mariners) Benoit, who's worked mostly in a set-up role the last few seasons, should help strengthen the back of Seattle's bullpen. (Photo Courtesy: Seattle Mariners)
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Following a shaky season from their bullpen, the Seattle Mariners are already taking steps to try to make sure it's a strength for next season. The team acquired right-handed relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit in a trade with the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league right-handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos and minor league infielder Nelson Ward.

Seattle's new General Manager, Jerry DiPoto, announced the deal Thursday morning. 

“Joaquin is a proven late game presence who brings both stability and impact to the back end of our bullpen,” Dipoto said. “We value his experience, track record of durability and consistently high end performance.”

Benoit, 38, was 6-5 with 2 saves and a 2.34 ERA (17 ER, 65.1 IP) in 67 relief appearances for the San Diego Padres in 2015. He posted a WHIP (walks + hits / innings pitched) of 0.90 last season, following a 0.77 WHIP in 2014. Opposing hitters batted just .159 (36 hits in 226 at-bats), and were held to a .242 on-base percentage while slugging just .305. Right-handers were just .144/.250/.221 (15-for-104), the lowest batting average against of any NL pitcher to have faced at least 100 right-handed batters.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound right-hander is a veteran of 14 Major League seasons with Texas (2001-08), Tampa Bay (2010), Detroit (2011-13) and San Diego (2014-15). He has a combined record of 54-42 with 50 saves and a 3.84 ERA (414 ER, 970.1 IP). For his career, Benoit has limited opposing hitters to a .223 batting average against, including a .214 mark by left-handed hitters (.233 vs. RHH).

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The deal should bolster a bullpen that was a soft spot for Seattle this past season. The Mariners' relief corps combined to have a 4.15 ERA, the sixth-highest mark in the majors, 24 blown saves (also sixth-highest), and had a batting average against of .258. 

The 2015 season was a sharp step backward for a Seattle bullpen that, statistically, was one of the best in baseball in 2014. That year, the Mariners relievers combined for a 2.19 ERA (best in the league), .219 BAA (second-best), and blew just 12 saves in 63 chances (third-best).

Benoit will likely serve as a ninth inning option for new manager Scott Servais after working mostly in a set-up role the past few seasons.

In exchange for Benoit, who is in the final year of his contract for $7.5 million for the 2016 season, the Mariners gave up a pair of prospects who spent last year at the A-level of their farm system.

De Los Santos, 19, began his pro career by splitting last season between Rookie Peoria and Short-A Everett, going 6-0 with a 3.47 ERA (24 ER, 62.1 IP) in 13 starts. He combined to limit opponents to a .262 (61×233), while walking 18 and striking out 71. He went 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA (7 ER, 24.2 IP) in 5 starts with the AZL Mariners before being promoted to Everett on July 21 where he went 3-0 with a 4.06 ERA (17 ER, 37.2 IP) in 8 starts with the AquaSox. He averaged 10.0 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, including striking out a season-high 8 strikeouts in 4.1 innings on July 24 vs. Spokane.

Ward, 23, split the season between A Clinton and High-A Bakersfield, batting .278 (126×454) with 81 runs scored, 19 doubles, 13 triples, 9 home runs, 55 RBI, 4 HBP, 59 walks and 13 stolen bases in 122 games. He led all Mariners farmhands, while finishing T4th among all minor league players, with 13 triples. He appeared in 46 games with Clinton, batting .270 (44×163) with 27 runs scored, 7 doubles, 7 triples, 2 home runs, 16 RBI, 26 walks and 5 stolen bases before being promoted to Bakersfield where he hit .282 (82×291) with 54 runs scored, 12 doubles, 6 triples, 7 home runs, 39 RBI, 4 HBP, 33 walks and 8 stolen bases in 76 games.

This is the second deal DiPoto has completed in his young career in Seattle, after a six-player swap with Tampa Bay.

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