Tigers reportedly near deal with Benoit

The Tigers had interest in Joaquin Benoit last year coming off surgery before he emerged as one of baseball’s best comeback stories. Now that he has proven himself healthy, he could soon be setting up in Detroit.

Benoit and the Tigers are nearing an agreement on a multi-year deal, according to FOXSports.com. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported the terms as three years and $16.5 million. A source confirmed interest between the two, but the Tigers would not comment on any contract.

While Detroit’s interest in upgrading its offense has been long-reported, some in the organization pegged relief help as just as big of a need. Among those was manager Jim Leyland, who juggled arms last year in a bullpen depleted by injuries and inexperience as the season wore on.

Phil Coke ended up handling setup duties for the majority of the season, but the Tigers plan to move him into the rotation for next year. That left a gaping hole for eighth-inning setup work behind closer Jose Valverde, who had his share of high-pitch outings when having to enter in the eighth for a four- or five-out save.

Enter Benoit, whose fastball regained much of its old life following rotator cuff surgery two years ago. He missed the entire 2009 season in rehab, then lingered on the free-agent market before agreeing to a minor-league contract with the Rays as Spring Training began.

The deal turned out to be one of baseball’s best bargains. Benoit had a career year in the Tampa Bay bullpen, allowing just 30 hits over 60 1/3 innings with 11 walks and 75 strikeouts. Opponents batted just .194 against him, and he allowed just 2 out of 23 inherited runners to score.

– Jason Beck

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