AP source: Benoit, Phillies agree to $7.5M, 1-year deal

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) Reliever Joaquin Benoit and the Philadelphia Phillies finalized a $7.5 million, one-year contract, part of the team's efforts to rebuild its bullpen.

''It's important in a bullpen to have different styles of pitchers, right?'' Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday at the winter meetings. ''Ideally, you'd have some righties and some lefties and some more experienced players blended with some younger players, and fastballs and sliders and curveballs.''

Benoit, a 39-year-old right-hander, has had an ERA under 3.00 for six of the past seven years. He was 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA last season, including a 0.38 ERA after the Toronto Blue Jays acquired him from Seattle in July for reliever Drew Storen. Benoit averaged 9.75 strikeouts per nine innings.

Over the last seven seasons, Benoit has a 0.98 WHIP (walks and hits per inning), trailing only Kenley Jansen (0.89) and Craig Kimbrel (0.95) around the majors in that span. Benoit has 51 saves in 712 big league games.

The deal comes about a month after the Phillies acquired righty reliever Pat Neshek in a trade with the Houston Astros and exercised a club option for $6.5 million in 2017 for him.

The 36-year-old Neshek was 2-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 60 relief appearances with Houston last season, holding right-handed hitters to a .172 average and compiling 43 strikeouts in 47 innings.

''We don't have a premier closer, which we'd love to have. But last year we didn't either. ... Somebody is going to be capable of doing that,'' Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. ''What we have now is a deeper bullpen, with more experience, better pitchers.''

Last season, the Phillies were 14-3 in one-run games as of May 15, then went only 14-20 the rest of the way in such contests, along the way to finishing 71-91 and in fourth place in the NL East.

''I feel now, with the addition of Benoit and Neshek, we got better for even the fifth and the sixth, and if (Jeanmar) Gomez ends up closing, or he's down in the fifth or sixth, depending on how it all ends up, were obviously deeper and better because of that,'' Mackanin said. ''We're going to have a lot of flexibility with that.''

Notes: Klentak called Tommy Joseph the team's ''everyday first baseman'' as of now. ''Tommy showed pretty well for himself all year long and we're excited to see what he can do in more of a regular role this coming year,'' Klentak said. Joseph hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 315 at-bats last season. ... Benoit's deal was negotiated by agents Sam and Seth Levinson. ... Philadelphia designated RHP Michael Mariot for assignment to open a roster spot for Benoit.

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