Rays fan Michael Weber said it best on Twitter, “Last year’s deal for Benoit was a steal, this year’s is market correction.” The Rays inked Benoit to a minor league deal worth $0.75m with a chance to earn another $0.5m in bonuses and he ended up being one of the best off-season moves in the entire industry. Today, Benoit has signed a new three-year deal with the Detroit Tigers that will pay him $16.5m over the next three seasons with a chance to earn another $1.0m in 2012 and 2013 if he becomes the team’s primary closer as first reported by Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.
The Rays were not going to Benoit $5.5 per season as it would have made him the highest paid pitcher on the staff in 2011. He was absolutely fantastic in his role with the Rays in 2010 with a 1.34 ERA while holding the opposition to a .150 batting average with a 11.2 K/9 and a 6.8 K/BB. That said, he stranded 95% of his baserunners last season and no reliever in the history of baseball has been able to sustain that number for two consecutive years. The two best relievers of our lifetime have been Dennis Eckersley and Mariano Rivera and each of them stranded at least 90% of their runners in a season just one time each in their long and illustrious careers. Benoit is still going to be a very good reliever when healthy but there will some regression coming in 2011 and Rays fans can only hope it shows up when the Tigers and Rays are playing each other.
We wish nothing but the best of luck to Benoit with the Tigers, but $5.5-$6.5m per year is a price the Rays simply could not match over three years of a deal for a pitcher that missed most of 2008 and 2009 due to injury. The Rays will receive a compensation draft pick from MLB for losing Benoit to the Tigers which is the only silver lining in losing such a dominant pitcher.
This time last year, Benoit was forced to take a minor league deal from the Rays as no club was willing to take a risk on him with a major league deal and one year later, he gets a lot of financial security for the next three seasons. That is living the good life and he busted his ass here with the Rays and he deserves the compensation he received today.