Free-agent left-handed reliever Tony Watson reportedly has an array of suitors, as he’s in talks with the the Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, and others according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale had reported earlier Tuesday that the Giants were in “serious talks” with Watson.
Watson, 32, had a bit of a down season by his standards but was still quite effective in 2017. He posted a 3.66 ERA and 1.52 WHIP with 35 strikeouts and 14 walks over 46.2 innings with the Pirates before being traded to the Dodgers on July 31, then was much better in Los Angeles, posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and six walks through 20 frames. He was solid in 11 appearances out of the Dodgers’ bullpen during the postseason, pitching to a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over seven innings.
Watson has historically been slightly more effective against left-handers, holding them to a .216/.276/.298 career slash line in 632 plate appearances, compared to a .226/.292/.369 line in 1,198 plate appearances against righties.
A Watson signing would presumably push the Giants over the luxury tax threshold, which they’ve been publicly aiming to avoid going over this offseason. After signing Austin Jackson last month San Francisco was believed to have very little wiggle room, and if a veteran with a non-guaranteed deal like Derek Holland, Gregor Blanco, or Andres Blanco makes their Opening Day roster, they may end up being over the threshold even without factoring Watson into the mix. But he’d certainly be a solid addition to a Giants bullpen that already figures to be much better this year with Mark Melancon and Will Smith returning from injuries and Sam Dyson still an option in the late innings.
Watson would be a curious fit with the Phillies, who still appear to be at least a year away from seriously competing despite the fact that they signed Carlos Santana to a long-term deal earlier this offseason. If he decides to go to Philadelphia, he’ll presumably take over as the top lefty in a bullpen that quietly has a chance to be extremely effective in 2018 with Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, and Leury Garcia in the fold.
Eduardo Rodriguez could end up in the bullpen and guys like Robby Scott and Jalen Beeks have chances to further establish themselves this season, but Boston’s left-handed relief depth is lacking a bit since Fernando Abad hit free agency and hasn’t been re-signed. Watson would be a good fit in the Red Sox’s bullpen and would give Boston another proven late-inning option to go along with Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Tyler Thornburg, and Carson Smith.