Darren Oliver told the Blue Jays he’d retire if they didn’t give him a raise on his $3 million contract or trade him to the Rangers, but they never caved into his demands and now the 42-year-old reliever is coming back to pitch in 2013 … for Toronto.
The team made an official announcement today, although I suppose that doesn’t preclude them from trading Oliver at some point. It just means he no longer has any real leverage, although considering how the Blue Jays let the whole situation play out it’s debatable if he had any leverage in the first place.
While the whole “raise, trade, or quit” scenario was a very interesting storyline, it’s also worth noting that Oliver is still a very effective pitcher and adding him back to the bullpen shouldn’t be overlooked for the Blue Jays. Last season Oliver threw 57 innings with a 2.06 ERA and 52/15 K/BB ratio and he’s posted an ERA under 3.00 in five straight seasons.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.