Benitez Headed Back To Miami

Giants manager Bruce Bochy would not commit to Armando Benitez as his closer after his 12th-inning, two-balk blowup against the Mets May 29. Two days later, Benitez was gone, traded to the Marlins, the team with which he enjoyed a successful 2004 campaign, for righthanded reliever Randy Messenger.
The Big
Benitez, 34, has been wracked by serious hamstring and knee injuries since signing his three-year, $21 million deal with the Giants in November 2004. He leaves the Giants having given them 45 saves in 59 opportunities (76 percent) in just 85 2/3 innings of work. Though Benitez can still dial his fastball into the mid-90s, his command has deteriorated considerably, making his splitter far less effective. Though Benitez has notched 289 career saves and remains a top strikeout reliever (10.9 per nine innings for his career), his propensity for giving up the long ball and high walk rate (4.6 per nine innings) have contributed to his pitching for six teams in 13 years.

Messenger, 25, emerged in 2004 once he converted to relief while at Double-A Carolina. Prior to that, Messenger, the Marlins’ 11th-round pick in 1999 out of Sparks (Nev.) High, had developed a reputation for being difficult to coach. Freed from the rigors of starting, though, he started blowing hitters away with 93-96 mph heat and his slurvy breaking ball, and he shot to the majors just a year later, in 2005.

Though the Giants are picking up nearly all of Benitez’ remaining $5 million salary, the Marlins are surrendering a young power arm who could help them down the road, long after Benitez is gone. With Kevin Gregg off to a good start as Florida’s closer, Benitez will operate as a set-up man. But for a team which has already tried out Henry Owens and Jorge Julio at closer, all roles must be considered transitory.

Trade Central 2007