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Giants sign Tony Watson to 2-year deal

Watson will combine with Will Smith to form an imposing left-handed duo in the Giants’ bullpen.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game One Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Giants have signed left-handed reliever Tony Watson to a two-year contract with a player option for a third year, as Jon Heyman and Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reported first on Friday night (or Saturday morning, depending on what time zone you’re in). Watson’s deal includes $7 million guaranteed with escalators that could increase the total value of the contract to $14 million over two years and $21 million over three, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has the breakdown:

Watson, 32, comes to San Francisco after ending last season with the rival Dodgers. The seven-year veteran posted a 3.38 ERA and 1.38 WHIP that were somewhat disappointing by his standards in 2017, but he regained his form after being traded from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles on July 31, pitching to a 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and six walks over 20 innings. He also came out of the bullpen 11 times during the playoffs for the Dodgers, posting a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over seven innings. Watson hasn’t posted a below-average ERA+ since his rookie year in 2011 and has a career ERA of 2.68 and a WHIP of 1.09.

While Watson is the first high-profile addition to the Giants’ relief corps this offseason, San Francisco’s bullpen will look much different than it did last year. Mark Melancon, who was limited to 32 games in his first season with the Giants, is set to return as the closer. That will push Sam Dyson, who spent most of last season as the closer, to a setup role, and he’ll be joined in the late innings by lefty Will Smith, who missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery.

Watson likely won’t get as many high-leverage opportunities as Smith, but the 32-year-old could be a great fit in more of a left-handed specialist role. If healthy, Smith and Watson could combine to form the same type of trusty veteran lefty tandem that the Giants possessed with Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez from 2010-15. Smith is expected to spend at least a couple weeks on the disabled list to begin the regular season, so it’s likely that a lefty among Steven Okert, Josh Osich, D.J. Snelten, Ty Blach, and Derek Holland (the latter two are also battling for rotation spots) will win a spot in the Opening Day bullpen, but those pitchers’ opportunities to contribute will certainly be reduced following the Watson signing.