2016 Fantasy Baseball: San Diego Padres Deal Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel
It had been long rumored that the San Diego Padres would shed payroll this winter in the interest of retooling their roster for the 2016 season. They wasted no time as they dealt away their 8th and 9th inning relievers in two separate deals this past week. First, they dealt Joaquin Benoit to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for minor leaguers Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward. As most of you know, the Padres also dealt Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox for a collection of young players. A colleague is covering the Red Sox side of that deal, so we’ll focus on the Padres and the Mariners in this piece.
Why the Mariners make this move
This is easy on the Mariners side. The AL West was either a bastion of parity or a dumpster fire depending on who you talked to. On the one hand, nearly three teams from the division made the playoffs. On the other hand, no one won even 90 games for the season. Only the Athletics were awful, and when you look at their runs scored and runs allowed, they weren’t truly awful. So, the division is up for grabs. The Mariners hoped Fernando Rodney would anchor their bullpen for another year coming into 2015. That didn’t happen and their hopes of going to the playoffs were dashed.
Joaquin Benoit has been at the very least an effective 8th inning guy throughout his career, and he’s served as a capable closer at times. He will turn 39 at the end of the 2016 season, but Jerry Dipoto is hoping he can coax one more season out of Benoit, and at eight million dollars he will be a significant bargain if he nails down the 9th inning for them.
In exchange, they trade a promising but very young pitcher in De Los Santos and a decent, but unspectacular infield prospect in Ward. De Los Santos is easily the more promising of the two prospects, but with only one minor league season under his belt, he wasn’t going to be a factor in the Mariners system until late 2017 at the earliest. Ward advanced to high A last season but likely has about two years until he makes it. At this rate, he looks like a utility infielder type.
Why the Padres make these deals
According to the pure accounting numbers, trading Benoit and Kimbrel cut 18.5 million dollars from the 2016 payroll. Depending on how free agency pans out, it could end up being a whole lot more. Justin Upton earned 14.5 million last season and is now a free agent. Ian Kennedy is also a free agent and he was making 9.85 million. Add up all of those numbers and you have over 40 million dollars to play with. They have already been rumored to be in on guys like Ian Desmond. So, in essence, the Padres are not rebuilding: they are reloading.
Rosterresource.com has the Padres closer as Brandon Maurer. Maurer came over in a trade with the Mariners prior to 2015 where he had been a failed starting pitcher. He quietly put up a 3.00 ERA in 53 games in 2015. Kevin Quackenbush is the other internal candidate (perhaps the best name in sports), and he has an ERA just over 3.00 in two seasons in the pen. Neither will make anyone forget about Craig Kimbrel, but both appear to be in line to be decent end of the game relievers.
What these deals mean for you
As I said earlier, a colleague will look at the Boston end of this deal, but suffice it to say that this is a great example of the kind turnover we see every season at the closer position. Some effective closers lose their job (as Koji Uehara would say) while new guys emerge as we will see with Benoit in Seattle and Maurer or Quackenbush in San Diego. As others on the internet have said, how you look at this deal largely depends on how you view late inning relievers. If they are more valuable, then the Padres will take a step back after dealing a very solid 1-2 tandem in the 8th and 9th innings. Meanwhile, the Mariners and Red Sox just thrust themselves into contender status.
I tend to split the difference on these things. I don’t think the Padres are going in the toilet at the end of the game and your fantasy bullpen got a little deeper. This is particularly true if you play in leagues that have holds as a category. If forced to choose a side, I usually side with the school of thought that being a closer is not as difficult as it’s cracked up to be. We see guys every year successfully graduate from setup man to closer. It’s highly possible that Maurer or Quackenbush will be the next man up.