WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - In need of more right-handed bullpen depth to account for Koda Glover’s latest shoulder injury, the Nationals have agreed to terms with veteran Joaquín Benoit on a one-year, $1 million contract, according to a source familiar with the deal.
The signing hasn’t been announced yet, but Benoit was at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches today and already had a locker with his nameplate above it inside the Nationals clubhouse, according to another source.
Benoit, 40, has a long track record as a setup man and occasional closer during a 16-year career with eight different franchises, peaking from 2010 through 2016 with a combined 2.40 ERA and 0.977 WHIP. He struggled last season with the Phillies and Pirates, though, his ERA ballooning to 4.65 and his WHIP jumping to 1.291 in 52 appearances.
The Nationals are hoping he reverts to the form he displayed with the Rays, Tigers and Padres, though he likely won’t be asked to hold a prominent role at the back end of their bullpen. Manager Davey Martinez has already said he plans to keep the 7-8-9 trio (Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle) that worked so well late in the 2017 season, so Benoit will probably be used to pitch in front of those three.
ESPN.com was first to report the signing.
General manager Mike Rizzo may have felt more urgency to bolster his relief corps (especially from the right side) when Glover reported to spring training with shoulder soreness similar to what plagued him last June and ultimately ended his 2017 season after only 23 appearances. Glover said this morning he’s “not worried” about this latest shoulder ailment but he’s been shut down from throwing for now.
“We’re going to be conservative with Koda,” Rizzo said this morning during an interview on “MASN All Access.” “He’s got a great arm, he’s a big part of our future, a young relief pitcher. So we’re going to tread lightly with that, since he’s had some injury history. We’re going to take him very, very slowly. With that said, we feel confident in our bullpen. We like the makeup of it. We like the talent there. But we’re never done looking to upgrade and improve.”
Asked if Glover’s injury might prompt him to look more seriously at the remaining relief market, Rizzo said: “I don’t think it forces us to do anything. We’ve got great depth at that position. But if the situation arises where we can upgrade ourselves, we will.”
Within hours, the Nationals had agreed to terms with Benoit.