Joaquin Benoit became the newest member of the Phillies' bullpen Tuesday.
But where will he pitch in 2017?
Benoit, who signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract, has pitched most of his 15-year career in the eighth inning, although he has also closed. The safest bet is that he pitches in the eighth.
"One of the things that is appealing to us about Joaquin is he has pitched the sixth, he's pitched the seventh, he's pitched the eighth, he's pitched the ninth, and he's been good in all of those roles at various times throughout his career," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. "We feel better today than we did a few days ago that we have several players in our bullpen that can compete for the ninth, the eighth, the seventh, the sixth. We made our bullpen better."
Benoit, 39, went a combined 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA in 51 appearances with the Mariners and Blue Jays last season. He posted a 5.18 ERA in 26 games for Seattle, but a 0.38 ERA in 25 appearances with Toronto. His season ended prematurely when he tore his left calf muscle while running onto the field as part of a fracas between the Blue Jays and Yankees on Sept. 26. He was not on the American League Division Series roster.
The Phillies certainly hope they get the version of Benoit that pitched in Toronto, and not the one that pitched in Seattle.
"He really was two different guys," Klentak said. "But as we drilled down into the data, there are some underlying things that he's always done in his career … we think there's a pretty good chance that he'll maintain his level of performance that he's demonstrated over the last handful of years. This guy has been really consistent for the better part of a decade. And especially in bullpens, which tend to be fairly volatile as a group, this guy has been the model of consistency."
Klentak pointed toward Benoit's velocity, strikeout rates, walk rates and batted ball tendencies, giving the Phillies' confidence Benoit can be a successful late-inning pitcher next season.
Benoit's velocity has stayed relatively stable over the past several seasons with his fastball averaging no less than 94.6 mph since 2010. It averaged 94.8 mph last season.
It remains to be seen who will be closing. Jeanmar Gomez held the job most of last season, but lost the job in the final week. Hector Neris is a strong candidate to close. Benoit could be in the mix, too.
"As we sit here today, I think we'd probably enter Spring Training with a competition," Klentak said. "But yeah, right now with the group we have, we have several candidates for that role."
"We don't have a premier closer, which we would love to have, but last year we didn't, either," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Someone is going to be capable of doing that. What we have now is a deeper bullpen with more experienced pitchers."
The Phillies desingated right-hander Michael Mariot for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Benoit.