Tigers sign Joaquin Benoit to three-year, $16.5 million deal

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UPDATE: Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes says the deal is for three years and $16.5 million, with another $1 million in incentives each season. MLB Trade Rumors notes that it’s the biggest contract signed by a non-closer reliever since Scott Linebrink in November of 2007.

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According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com the Tigers “are nearing a multi-year agreement with right-hander Joaquin Benoit” and “the deal could be for as long as three years.”

Benoit was nearly unhittable this season for Tampa Bay, throwing 60 innings with a 1.34 ERA, .147 opponents’ batting average, and 75/11 K/BB ratio and did so while making peanuts after the Rays picked him up off the scrap heap following shoulder surgery.

That he’s now on the verge of getting a three-year deal just 12 months after being available to anyone who wanted him for $1 million speaks to how amazing Benoit was in his comeback and also to the type of risk the Tigers are taking to add another power arm to their bullpen. When healthy Benoit has consistently been a top-notch setup man, but his last healthy and effective season before this one was 2007 and even setting aside his injury history signing a 33-year-old reliever to a three-year deal is always a big risk.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.