Report: Giants sign Armando Benitez

As has been rumored on the message board for several days, the San Francisco Chronicle has confirmed that the San Francisco Giants have reached a tentative deal with closer Armando Benitez.

According to the Chronicle, the deal could be announced as early as today if Armando Benitez passes a physical. The deal is rumored to be worth about $21 million over 3 years, which is more than his former team, the Marlins, were offering him. Benitez turned down a 1 year deal with a club option for a second, worth about $11 million total with $6 million guaranteed.

Benitez, a 32 year old right handed pitcher, has 244 career saves in his 11 year major league career. Last year, after signing with the Marlins as a free agent, he had the best year of his career, with 47 saves in 51 chances while posting a 1.29 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP, all while limiting opponents to a batting average of .216. He has 826 career strikeouts and 335 walks in 654 innings. Benitez was the closer with the Mets from 1999 until he was traded in 2003, and faced the Giants in the 2000 playoffs. He blew a save against the Giants, giving up a 3 run home run to J.T. Snow in the bottom of the 9th, but eventually got the win in the game, giving the Mets the momentum they took into New York to win the series.

The Giants had been looking to improve their bullpen after a disastrous 2004, in which Matt Herges tried to step in for an injured Robb Nen and the departed Tim Worrell. Herges had a tough time, blowing 8 saves in 31 total chances, and posting a 5.23 ERA. Having Herges try to be closer also took away what had been one of the Giants best setup men, and weakened the bullpen overall, putting more pressure on the other pitchers. The bullpen as a whole had a 4.53 ERA with a .283 opponents’ batting average, the highest in the majors. Dustin Hermanson moved from the rotation to the closer role in August and did a respectable job, converting 17 of 20 save opportunities while posting a 4.33 ERA as a reliever. The Giants also set a major league record with 521 appearances by their bullpen, despite having their starters throw 8 complete games (tied for 3rd best in the majors).

With the signing of Benitez, the Giants will likely move Herges back to his role as a setup man, where he flourished in 2003, posting a 2.62 ERA overall, and a 2.31 ERA with the Giants after arriving by trade from the Padres. He will join Jim Brower and Scott Eyre there. The Giants are expected to sign one more left handed pitcher for the bullpen, and the other additions will likely come from within their system, with the most likely candidates being promising youngster David Aardsma and whichever rotation candidates don’t make the rotation out of spring training, such as Jesse Foppert or Brad Hennessey.

It is unknown how this will affect the team’s offer to Hermanson, who was pursued by the Giants and is being pursued by several other teams as a closer, and the team’s rumored interest in various outfielders, either through free agency or trade. Also still to be resolved are the salary issues of arbitration eligible players Pedro Feliz, A.J. Pierzynski and Yorvit Torrealba, among others. The Giants may need to trade away some payroll if they intend to stay at the approximate $80 million payroll line that they have indicated they would be at.

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