The Tampa Bay Rays lost the first key member of their bullpen Wednesday with reports that setup man Joaquin Benoit is on the verge of agreeing to a three-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.
According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN, Benoit is getting a staggering $16.5-million over three years. That's an annual average of $5.5-million for a guy who the Rays brought to camp on a minor-league deal last spring after he sat out all of 2009 recovering from shoulder surgery.
Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said the Rays had a "sliver of hope" in retaining Benoit, but that disappeared given the magnitude of his reported agreement with the Tigers.
"Obviously a great outcome for Joaquin,'' Friedman said during a break in the GM meetings in Orlando. "He's very deserving. He was phenomenal for us in 2010 and we wish him nothing but the best. ... Coming off the year he had, we knew that there would be a lot of demand.
"We had some sliver of hope that things would work out differently. But he earned the right to become a free agent, had a phenomenal season and was able to cash in on one of the largest middle reliever contracts in the history of baseball.''
The Times reported Tuesday that Benoit, and lefty reliever Randy Choate, were receiving considerable interest from other teams and that it would be "a shock" if either returned to the Rays.