(Keith Allison, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons)
First of all, a couple quick blurbs on the minor-leaguers. Ward is organizational depth. He is 23 years old and finished the season in advanced A ball in Bakersfield. Ward has put together some nice hitting numbers but nothing sensational.
Enyel De Los Santos is the baseball equivalent of a lottery ticket. He is just 19 years and has a whopping total of two months' professional experience. Granted, those couple months looked good, but we are talking about a 19-year-old pitching prospect in short-season rookie league. If De Los Santos ever makes it to the majors, and especially if he becomes an impact player in the majors, it will be thanks to the Padres development of him over the next two to four years as much as his natural ability.
Benoit is an interesting acquisition for the Mariners. It is relatively easy to see why the Padres wanted to get rid of him. He is owed $8 million next year and will turn 39 years old - all as a reliever. Spending $8 million on relievers crowding 40 is not the most efficient use of funds.
However, while Benoit may not be the most efficient use of salary, he is pretty darn good. In fact, Benoit might be among the most underrated relievers of the past decade. His career has largely flown under the radar because he has rarely been his team's closer, but his numbers compare favorably with glitzier names.
Moreover, Benoit shows no signs of slowing down. His average fastball velocity remains steady around 94 mph, his pitch selection has not changed much over the past decade, and his results have been remarkably steady as well. Even if Benoit loses some fastball velocity his best pitch is a deadly change-up, so he should be able to stay productive for the near future. Basically Joaquin Benoit is Fernando Rodney with a little less velocity and way more command.
The Mariners needed some bullpen depth, but I had assumed Jerry Dipoto would address it through waivers - essentially collecting castoffs from other teams, such as Cody Martin (who the M's picked up on waivers October 19). Benoit does not fit this mold at all.
The only point in acquiring Benoit is if you plan to contend in 2016. Benoit is an expensive asset in one of the more flexible areas of any roster, the bullpen. Kevin Mather said he wanted a GM who would not waste the prime years of King Felix, Cano, and Nelson Cruz. Jerry Dipoto said he wanted to build a winner. These are easy things to say, but picking up Benoit, as relatively small as the move is, puts some teeth in those words.
This is going to be a busy offseason. Jerry Dipoto is not playing around. The Mariners are going to be a contender next year.