Opinion

Joaquin Benoit to provide bullpen sanity

Photo by Keith Allison (https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/29221986002/)

Photo by Keith Allison

The Final Jeopardy answer is: Colton Murray, Frank Herrmann and Patrick Schuster.

Good ahead, Cliff Clavin. Take a stab with, “Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?”

But in some kind of warped, please-don’t-say-it-was-true reality, those are three pitchers who threw in at least five September games for the Phillies in 2016. Two of them had ERAs over 11 (Herrmann clicked in at 5.63) for the month. None of them will be back with the Phillies, or likely any major league team, to start 2017. But the Phillies amazingly found roster room for them to pitch in what turned into one of the worst bullpens in baseball.

And as starved for offense as the Phillies are (last in the National League in runs, slugging percentage and OPS in 2016 with two of the best pitching staffs in baseball residing in their division), there is at least potential for statistical growth at nearly every position in 2017. In the bullpen, there is no such potential with those who are returning, or, at best, very limited growth potential.

That left General Manager Matt Klentak no choice but to do something about what was arguably the most laughable contingent of a really bad second-half team. In November he acted quickly, trading some organizational filler for useful reliever Pat Neshek and his 2016 WHIP of 0.936. Now comes the signing of righty Joaquin Benoit, who after being traded to Toronto mid-season gave up just one run in 23.2 innings during the Blue Jays’ playoff run. He didn’t pitch in the postseason after tearing a calf muscle when he tripped trying to run to the infield during a late-September bench-clearing incident against the Yankees, but he’s expected to be healthy for 2017.

Signing Benoit, or bringing in Neshek for that matter, in no way pushes the Phillies to anything in the short-term other than a step or two closer to what should be a reachable goal of a .500 team. There isn’t a clear-thinking person on the planet who expects the 39-year-old Benoit to be here when the Phillies have a chance to start legitimately contending for the playoffs again. The fact that he slowed to 48 innings last season when he averaged more than 63 innings the previous six seasons tells you this is probably his last contract that isn’t preceded by “minor league invite.”

But Benoit is a respectable, veteran stop-gap who obviously had no trouble coming to a bottom-feeder with limited 2017 upside, as long as the price was right. And at one-year, $7.5 million, the price was right for him and for the Phillies, despite him being the third-highest (!) earner on the team under contract for the season. He and Neshek are the insurance to make sure we never again see those September 2016 guys, who, in all likelihood, have never been in your kitchen. Or Cliff Clavin’s.

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