The Tigers bolstered their bullpen with the addition of Joaquin Benoit. The right-handed reliever was 1-2 with a 1.34 ERA in 60 games last season with the Rays. (Associated Press)

Joaquin Benoit had struggled with his control for much of his career.

In 2010 he finally put things together and emerged as a top-notch setup man for the Tampa Bay Rays. Benoit went 1-2 with a 1.34 ERA and struck out 76 and walked 11 in 60 1/3 innings, playing a large role in helping the Rays win their second AL East crown in three years.

The best season in his career resulted in a big pay day as the 33-year old right-hander has reportedly agreed to a three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Tigers where he will likely become the setup man to Jose Valverde. This comes a year after he was signed by the Rays as a minor-league free agent after not playing in the majors in 2009.

Benoit is a much needed piece for the Tigers because they were in need of bullpen help. With the injury history of Joel Zumaya and Phil Coke likely headed to the starting rotation, Detroit needed to find someone for the back end of the bullpen.

The problem with the deal is the Tigers are giving out a large amount of money and years to a pitcher that hasn’t been consistent throughout his major league career. In 2008 with Texas, he struck out 43 and walked 35 in 45 innings – not a great ratio. Through most seasons in his career, he has walked an average of four per nine innings – not something you want a reliever to do. But after missing 2009 because of rotator cuff season, Benoit put it all together.

The deal is a bit of a gamble for the Tigers, but if Benoit in fact has things figured out and can duplicate or come close to his 2010 success, it would be a big boost for a Detroit team hoping to contend in the AL Central.

Benoit is the first piece in free agency reeled in by the Tigers. With the loss of long reliever/spot starter Eddie Bonine and minor league Casey Fien (who spent some time in the majors the past two seasons), it appears the Tigers will be revamping the bullpen. Ryan Perry and Valverde and now Benoit likely are the main locks for the 2011 bullpen at this point.

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