By: Tucker Peterson
Only a few weeks after picking up relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit’s 2016 option, AJ Preller and the Padres have traded him away to the Seattle Mariners. Seattle sends two minor leaguers back to San Diego, right handed pitcher Enyel De Los Santos and infielder Nelson Ward.
Benoit had another stellar season last year, posting a 2.34 ERA with 63 strikeouts and a .903 WHIP in 67 appearances (65.1 innings). he did however, give up his most home runs since 2012 (7) and most walks since 2008 (23). Early in his career, Joaquin flirted with a starting rotation position (53 starts in his first 4 full seasons). His primary role since then has been a late-inning set up man, but as also recorded 50 saves in his 14 year career. Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
As mentioned, Benoit is in his 14th season at age 38. His $7.5 million option is pretty steep considering his age and his role as a set-up man. With that said, he has produced throughout his career and has really found his niche as an 8th-inning guy in recent years. The Padres strategically planned the re-signing as they used him as a trading piece to begin rebuilding San Diego’s minor league system.
Although neither De Los Santos or Ward are looked at as premier minor leaguers, the Padres are able to dump a steep salary and add depth to their farm system. De Los Santos is only 19 years old, but is looked at as a young player with starting rotation potential. Nelson Ward spent his first season in the minor leagues last season coming out of the University of Georgia in the 2014 MLB Draft. He has shown some signs of promising play offensively and defensively, though has not put up gaudy numbers.
Per Dennis Lin’s twitter account, the San Diego Padres’ General Manager states that the move was meant to alleviate some payroll and make some room for new free agents for 2016. “We’ll go out there and look at more trade possibilites and free agents. This gives us additional room,” says Preller.
One thing is certain, AJ Preller has quite a job to do after last years mess. AJ excited many fans making a ton of trades in the 2015 offseason, something San Diego is not used to. The fanbase seemed to have ultimate buy-in from day one, but sputtered in the second half of the year as did the Padres’ season. Expect many more trades from Preller this offseason in an attempt to make up for 2015.