Joaquin Benoit free agency: Talks progressing between RP and Padres

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The right-hander could help bolster an already-strong relief staff in San Diego.

Contract negotiations between the San Diego Padres and free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit are "heating up", reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

The Padres emerged as favorites for the former Tigers' closer last week. At first, they were competing with the Indians over Benoit, but after Cleveland signed John Axford they appear likely to be out of the running for another pricy bullpen option. San Diego reportedly had a deal on the table worth $14 million over two years, with an option for a third year.

The Friars have been looking to bolster their bullpen this offseason as they hope to acquire one left-handed and one right-handed late-innings arm. Strengthening their relief corps could give the Padres one of the most feared bullpens in baseball. They were already in the top-10 in reliever ERA in 2013 as players like Luke Gregerson, Dale Thayer and Joe Thatcher all had big years in set-up roles.

Closer Huston Street was also as good as ever, posting a 2.70 ERA and collecting 33 saves, his most since 2009. Given Street's presence on the roster -- for $7 million next season -- Benoit would slot into an eighth inning role for the Padres. That could be the reason a deal is taking so long; Benoit might be looking for a closing opportunity first.

Benoit, 36, received his first real chance to close in 2013 as he was a rare bright spot in the Tigers' bullpen. He would up saving 24 games with a 2.01 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Since returning from rotator cuff surgery that cost him all of the 2009 season, he has not once failed to toss at least 60 innings. In the four years since the procedure, he has a 2.53 ERA and has struck out over ten batters per nine innings.

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