Pirates Looking at Joaquin Benoit and Joakim Soria

Jon Heyman reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates are one of three teams looking at San Diego Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit. He also says that the Pirates have been looking at Texas Rangers reliever Joakim Soria. This comes after we heard that the Pirates were looking at Huston Street, who was just traded to the Angels for a big return.

Heyman says that the Tigers and Indians are also interested in Benoit. He said the Tigers and Pirates have showed interest in Soria.

Benoit is due $8 M next year, and has an $8 M option in 2016, with a $1.5 M buyout. The option becomes guaranteed with 55 games finished in 2015. He makes $6 M this year, which means the Pirates would be picking up about $11.5 M guaranteed over 14 months by dealing for him.

Soria has a better contract, making $5.5 M this year, with a $7 M club option next year and an $0.5 M buyout. That option could increase by $1 M and the buyout could increase by $0.25 M if he has 55 games finished this year. He’s at 31, and probably wouldn’t reach that total, making the increase unlikely. He does have performance bonuses for games finished, with $100,000 each for 35 and 40 games finished, $200,000 each for 45 and 50, and $250,000 for 60. The Pirates would owe Soria a little less than $2 M this year, along with the buyout next year.

Based on what the Padres got for Street, I’m guessing they’d want a similar haul for Benoit. My opinion is the same as it was for Street. I don’t like the idea of paying a lot of money for relief pitching, or trading prospects. This is a case where you’d have to do both. That $11.5 M would probably pay for a year of Russell Martin, who would provide a much bigger impact than 14 months of Benoit.

Soria doesn’t come with the huge costs financially, but might cost a lot in prospects. The only way this type of deal made sense is if he came at a much lower price than Street. Considering his success as a closer this year, I’d be skeptical that this would happen.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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This is actually a tough one for me, Tim. I follow the logic (and Pirates precedent) of not paying a lot of $$ for the bullpen, but I also see this as our most vulnerable part of our team, definitely the late blown leads have cost us 3-4 games in the standings, easily.

IF indeed our choice is “Benoit or Soria” or Russell Martin, it is a no-brainer. Russell is by far the biggest priority. There is, however, an obvious $10-12M available this year and next few years in the payroll to spend OUTSIDE of re-signing Martin, and so not sure that is a true ‘choice’ the Pirates would be making.

The way the Bucs play, beefing up the bullpen to turn it from a weakness to an absolute strength might be the biggest way we can improve this club. That doesn’t mean Melancon and Watson can’t do the job… but no doubt the pen will be better replacing, say, Gomez, with Soria, Benoit, Cishek, etc. It would also give us Frieri insurance if he doesn’t rediscover his form.

I think I’m OK either way on this …. there is a way for the bullpen to be improved by tapping a second tier guy and paying much lower price ($ and prospects) and that is probably the path they will go.


Since we don’t know the price tag it is probably too early to try and figure out whether getting a closer is a bad thing, if they can add any of these guys for a moderate price, it will be well worth it to make a trade, making the team stronger is rarely a bad thing.
It amazes me the cross section of Pirate fans, the ones that hate Nutting calling him cheap and the other side that does not want them to spend on players.
This is what the Pirates actually need to be a complete team. They need a first basemen, 3rd basemen, Closer (if for no other reason to pitch when Melancon can’t, like tonight). The primary reason they need corner infielders is because the ones they have can’t play their positions very well, in fact there awful. I am almost at the position where I want them to bring no-hit Morel up and move Martin to first base (like the Giants use Posey) occasionally.


Nobody in the national league – NOBODY FIELDS his position better than Pedro. He gets to more balls – starts more double plays – than anyone. YES he makes AWFUL THROWS – and makes them more often than he should – but EVERY third baseman – even the best ones airmails a throw once in a while – the Rockies third basemen who is a top fielder had two throwing errors this weekend.

Pedro is one of a very few hitters anywhere with 40 HR potential – that is a rare thing – and getting him off of this “use the entire field” and “cut down on strikeouts” that he seems to be on for no known reason and returning to pulling the ball and driving it into and over the Clemente wall should be the hitting coaches first priority – and the manager’s.

But because I am a fan of Pedro I hope he gets out of this mess and goes to a team and fans that will appreciate him – hopefully in the AL so he can’t come back to PNC and haunt the Bucs – so I am all for trading him and moving on – just can’t wait to see the fans whining about nobody hitting more than 25 HRS for this team


You need to watch more baseball if you think Alvarez is the best fielding 3rd basemen in the NL. Looking at the numbers Alvarez’s range rating is below average for the NL, and his errors have cost over half a Win.


Additionally if you look the numbers based on linear weights, his offense production is very similar to the last two years, 112 wRC+ in both 2012 and 2013, 107 wRC+ this season. He has gone about in a different fashion, but offensively his contributions are similar.

I really don’t understand the consternation in the fan base, he is a limited hitter with elite power, when he plays league average-ish defensive he is a slightly above average player. He is going to struggle to provide that type of value this year because of the errors, but every team needs players like him. He just isn’t a middle order of the order bat or worth extending given the current player he is.


For 3rd basemen I look at three stats – how many balls does he get to – last I looked Pedro led the league in chances, how many does he cleanly field – again, last I looked he had ONE fielding error, then the number of double plays – again he led the league by a fairly wide margin.

His throws have hurt the team – but his fielding has helped – I agree with benching him against lefties – but I thought there were at least two balls last night Pedro gets to that Josh did not.

I wish more fans were logical and saw him for what he is – as I have said here and elsewhere, the Bucs have bigger problems that nobody seems too upset about.
1. 1st base – both offensively AND defensively
2. 2nd base defensively – Walker is having a nice year offensively, but last I looked he ranked near the bottom in defense.
3. A MVP/CF who is near the bottom of not just center fielders, but all outfielders and belongs in Left Field


I think you are looking at the wrong numbers, chances and double plays turned is a product of opportunities. Pirates have the highest ground-ball pitching staff in the majors, thus the infielders should have more chances than players on other teams. Neil Walker has one fielding error, he is not a good fielding 2nd baseman.

You seem to using UZR to rate Walker, 1st base, and McCutchen, apply the same standard to Alvarez his UZR range rating is bottom of the pack. And again if you are using UZR or DRS look at more than 2/3 of season, especially with outfielders, when projecting defense going forward. McCutchen’s UZR/150 for his career is -4.6, Alvarez’s is -6.1 and he has never had a positive season. I’m more concerned about Alvarez’s defense going forward.

R Edwards

I think “fixing” first base and getting just 1-2 more quality and reliable arms for the bullpen are higher priorities than getting a closer necessarily. Benoit and Soria will both cost a lot in prospects and command too high of salaries going forward to make sense.


I know I’ll likely be in the minority, but I’m still of the opinion that the Pirates should be trading away their closer every year they can get good prospects. Think about how much better off we would’ve been by trading Grilli last year for something approaching what the Padres got for Street.

Relievers are so volatile, I’m not sure it would even hurt our playoff run this year, let alone hurt it in the future.


For the first time in awhile I’m absolutely fine with the Bucs standing pat at the deadline. The only way I see them trading for a SP is if they know Cole isn’t going to contribute the rest of the year. Otherwise, they’d be getting a middling SP and sitting a middling SP they already have on the roster, and giving up prospects to do so. Really, who of Cole, Frankie, Morton, Locke or Volquez are you going to sit at this point? For Kennedy? He had one very good season and is good so far this year too. But the rest of his career has been above 4.00 FIP & xFIP. I think we already have enough guys like that.
And no thanks on giving up anything of value for a RP…it’s just not worth it. If they can add a RP, a 1B or a bench piece cheaply, fine, if not roll with the guys they got and maybe add Lambo in a few weeks if Ike doesn’t break out.


For those who are new to this site. Here is data showing how well Melancon is doing


Sorry no buyers, melancon is not,I repeat not a long term answer at closer. Do you really want him closing games during a pennant chase,or the playoffs? It makes me shudder when ithink of him closing games during the playoffs.


There is no such thing as a long term solution at the closer position.


Mariano, Hoffman, Wagner, Face, all come to mind quickly. While rare, there have been long term answers at the closer position.


These are outliers, searching for the next Rivera is like saying you need a guy capable of 50 home runs batting 4th.



You said there was no such thing which means zero. As I stated above they are rare.


You should state your case for why Melancon is inadequate.

I do want him closing games during a pennant chase. Try to convince us otherwise.


Anything I say will go in one ear and out the other. Just for the sake of argument here are two things, his era is a point higher than his era as a setup man, ( I have no problems with him as a setup guy) secondly he does not pass the eye test,for every one,two,three inning there are two with baserunners. Does that show up in the stats, answer is no. Anybody in baseball will tell you those baserunners will bite you during a pennant chase and more so in the playoffs. A dominant shutdown closer is a prerequisite for a playoff team, melancon would be fine as a closer for a non playoff team without the added pressure a playoff chase brings,since the pirates are a playoff team they need a closer who won’t wilt as he has done in the pressure packed enviroment of the postseason. I know I just wasted my time none of this will register,oh well I tried,all I can say is wait and see I will be right in the long run as I usually am.


I believe that there are stats for everything in baseball, so I’m certain that your claim that he lets too many baserunners on is there. In fact, I can tell you that Melancon averages 0.87 walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP). So clearly no, he does not leave a runner for every 1,2,3 inning. By comparison, Aroldis Chapman has a WHIP of 0.83. But somehow, Melancon doesn’t pass the eye test because he lets on too many runners. You may need your eyes checked.


fair enough. maybe you see something we don’t.

even if his ERA is a little higher in the 9th than in the 8th in 2014, i’d be willing to bet his ERA in the 9th is still pretty dang good.
And i’m pretty sure his ERA in the 9th is lower than his ERA in the 8th in his career, but I could be mistaken.

maybe he does have a big flaw that will show up in big games. i guess we’ll see.


Re post from the earlier Melancon article.

“The reason that some of us believe that Melancon is better in the 8th then the 9th are proven out by the stats you provided. Here is what I see (or the eye test that is so put down by many):

Comparing the 8th and 9th inning stats, you will see that with almost the same innings pitched, Melancon is much better in the 8th then the 9th. Melancon’s PA and AB are higher which means he has to face more hitters to get out of the inning. His SO are down and the most telling stats are that his BA/OBP/SLG/OPS and TB are significantly higher in the 9th.

So what I see in the eye test is confirmed by his stats. In the 8th he seems to mow them down and make a quick clean inning of it. But come the 9th, we are watching from the edge of our seats as he seems to have an adventure out there when I want to see that 8th inning version of him. So yes, I am one of those who are of the opinion that there is a certain mind set that a closer needs and Melancon really doesn’t have it. And it has nothing to do with facial hair, hair style, angle of the ball cap, snarls, or tattoos. Just look at his stats.”


Seriously? So, 0.27 FIP over 420-450 PAs is the different between having the closer mentality or not?

Inning / ERA / FIP (using 3.2 as constant) / K% -BB%
8th: 105 / 3.00 / 2.87 / 18.5%
9th: 109 / 2.64 / 3.14 / 16.9%

If you want to make the argument against Melancon, here it is, he is a different pitcher with runners on base. 2011-Today, when he began using the cut fastball.

Base State: Batters Faced / FIP / K%- BB% / OPS against
Bases Empty: 555/ 2.26 / 21.1% / .549
Men On: 402 / 3.69 / 11.9% / .656

Most pitchers are worse with runners on, the better relievers included. However you could argue that Melancon’s drop is strikeouts and increase in walks is greater than the other options discussed for the 9th inning and could be an issue going forward. The caveat being that Melancon is the one of the best pitchers in the baseball when bases are empty. Linked is a leader board of the discussed options.



Seriously? Did I make any statement about his dealing with runners on base? In most cases, he always starts the inning regardless if its the 8th or 9th. Did you actually look at his stats that I pointed out that show a clear degradation of performance in some pretty important areas when he pitches in the 9th? Perhaps he will improve, but when you want stats to tell you a “story”, you need to look at all of them before claiming some have less insight then others. When we say he fails the eye test of runners always seeming to be on, and his stats prove it to be so, how are we wrong? Melancon is a hell of a setup pitcher, and maybe will learn the closer role, and I certainly hope so as I can’t see paying any of these guys what they are getting for a closer.


Melancon’s numbers for 2014

Inning: Batters faced/ ERA / FIP(3.2 constant) / K -BB% / OPS against
8th: 69 / 1.42 / 1.62 / 24.6% / .343
9th: 103 / 2.92 / 3.20 / 16.5% / .591

It is correct that Melancon has performed worse in 9th this season, but as I listed his above those difference lessen we you look at his career numbers. A lot of noise can occur in just over 100 batters faced, those splits have no predictive validity. Secondly, compared to league average Melancon is performing at an above average rate in the 9th.

ERA / FIP / K% – BB% / OPS against
League Average in 8th: 3.36 / 3.58 / 13.7% / .665
League Average in 9th: 3.72 / 3.47 / 16.1% / .665

8th to 9th innings is not an accepted split, and small samples are not indicative of ability and going forward Melancon should be projected to perform at this overall rates. Way to much is made of small sample splits, that haven’t been shown to have meaningful differences.


Thanks long john, if I had scrolled down and read what you wrote I could have saved myself some words, just goes to show that facts are not facts to some people they are just obstacles to get around.


What do you base this off of? DO you have any facts to support this, or is it an uneducated opnion?

Lee Young

I have no problems with MM or Watson closing.


here we go again.

Scott Kliesen

No to either of these two, please. And no to Kennedy, too. If the Pirates are going to make a deal for Pitching, I say go big or don’t go at all. David Price or nothing at all. They have plenty of middle of rotation types. What they need is an Ace.


I’m thinking now… it appears that the NL Central will only be sending one team to the postseason.

Since the stakes are so high (division pennant vs no playoffs as opposed to having the two wildcard slots involved)… i dunno…

but i do like ian kennedy too.


An ian kennedy type pitcher is more in line with the pirates needs, if for no other reason than to bring veteran leadership to the pitching staff and to stabilize it. As far as closers go the pirates have frieri,if they get him back to form they have a dominant closer. As for melancon he is not and should not be considered a long term solution as he is pretty shaky as a closer and is much better suited as a setup man. Either way the front office decides to go they have the chips and the cash to get it done. Keep in mind that prospects are just that prospects, not all of them will pan out and not all of them are going to make the pirates. Using them to get established major league players is a big part of what a prospect is for and not just to keep under the pillow for a rainy day.

Mike C.

IMO in this market, the “proven lights out closer” title still carries a huge price tag. Even a “average but veteran closer” does as well. Then down the list we have “setup” guys, where from this article we can also tell are pretty expensive.
What I want NH to get is non closer/setup reliever with good stuff & xfip. Most stupid GMs still under value them imo.
You know who someone like this was?
And he wasn’t even a closer or setup guy b4.


For those of you who continue to not realize Melancon is a quality closer. If the Pirates make a move like this it will be to bolster the bullpen but not to take Melancon out of the closer role. Personally, I doubt they acquire either of these guys as the asking price will be too high. I expect a bullpen addition of the lesser form. I think we may see a trade for a starter though.


Melancon is not a quality long term solution at closer, what he is is a very good setup guy, not a closer. Do you honestly want to see melancon closing games in the strech run, or heaven forbid in the playoffs? I think not,it makes me cringe to even think about it.


Haha, yes I do want to see him closing games in the stretch run and or playoffs. It’s obvious you just want a big name to close. If you cringe at seeing Melancon closing out games then you must be hoping for the Bucs to lose. Only logic I can see.


There is no logic in your comment. How is getting 3 outs in the 9th inning different from getting 3 in the 8th? The notion that the inning changes the pitcher is ridiculous. And while you and the others keep shouting for a closer, you probably haven’t realized that Melancon hasn’t blown a save in 5 weeks.


While I believe that there is something to the 9th inning for some pitchers it does not appear to be an issue for Melancon. He is an elite setup man and a very good closer. How is Benoit or Soria and improvement up that?


what makes Melancon a very good setup guy versus a very good closer? Both “positions” have to get 3 outs and hold onto a lead that’s less than 3 runs.


$8 million for Benoit next season? No thanks.

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