The Mariners exchanged their struggling reliever Joaquin Benoit for the struggling Toronto Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen last night.
Joaquin Benoit was supposed to be a stalwart in an otherwise uncertain Mariners bullpen entering 2016. From 2013 to 2015, Benoit compiled a 14-8 record, 1.98 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and even tossed in 37 saves for good measure. This year with the Mariners, Benoit has faltered in a big way. Benoit was traded last night to the Toronto Blue Jays sporting a 5.18 ERA. He has given up four home runs, 24 hits, and 15 walks in 24.1 innings so far this year. Last year, in 65.1 innings, he gave up seven home runs, 36 hits, and 23 walks all season.
Joaquin Benoit didn’t lose much velocity between last year and this year, but his wildness at times has cost him. He simply hasn’t been the lock-down setup man that Jerry Dipoto and company had hoped for when they brought him in this winter.
In exchange for the massively disappointing Joaquin Benoit, the Mariners got Drew Storen from the Blue Jays. Storen has also been a disappointment in 2016. In 2014, Storen posted a 1.12 ERA in 56.1 innings pitched. Last season, he earned 29 saves for the Washington Nationals before being replaced (for some reason) by Jonathan Papelbon. He struck out over a batter an inning last year for the Nats and seemed to be on the rise.
Storen instead has compiled a 6.21 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched this year for the Blue Jays. He has allowed 43 hits already in his 33.1 innings and six home runs. It’s been ugly. Storen’s fastball velocity is down from last season, causing him to throw batting practice for much of his time on the mound.
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Storen is in the midst of his age-28 season this year, while Joaquin Benoit is a dinosaur. My explanation for Jerry Dipoto’s move is that Storen likely has a higher ceiling for this season and beyond. Giving up Joaquin Benoit isn’t a steep price for any bullpen help if they can contribute now or potentially beyond this season. Storen is on a one-year contract but could be re-signed at a bargain price even if he does flash some potential through the end of this year.
Or the Mariners could have simply swapped struggling relievers, which for contending teams, are about as useful as…what Rip Torn’s character from “Dodgeball” said. Dipoto has shown in his short stint with the Mariners so far that he is willing to take chances on struggling players for a low price, especially in the bullpen. This approach has mostly worked with Steve Cishek, who was recovered off the scrap heap this offseason and Tom Wilhelmsen in his second stint with the club, but it’s tough to see Storen suddenly figuring out how to throw harder and regaining his former 2014-2015 glory over the next couple months.
As with many of Dipoto’s moves this year, this one is a head-scratcher. But we’ll see when Drew actually takes the mound. We already know Joaquin Benoit will dominate for the Blue Jays now that he’s gone.