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Giants reportedly in ‘serious contract talks’ with Tony Watson

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The left-handed reliever would appear to be too expensive for the Giants if they want to stay under the luxury tax threshold, but he’s also good.

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Giants are getting Will Smith back at full strength. Probably. I mean, maybe not right away. But probably. So they’re set when it comes to late-inning left-handed relief. Probably. Maybe.

Uh, it couldn’t hurt to add more. And if they’re going to add more, they might as well explore one of the best options on the market:

Tony Watson will be 33 next year, and he’s been mostly excellent for the last seven years. While he’s been one of those relievers whose K/BB and FIP haven’t been as impressive as his ERA (2.68 career ERA, 3.60 career FIP), there’s obvious value in a left-hander who pitches 70 solid-to-great innings every year and doesn’t have an obvious platoon problem. Around here, we call that “a Jeremy Affeldt.”

I miss that guy.

The analogy isn’t totally perfect, as Affeldt came to the Giants when he was 30, but if we’re talking about stuff and results against both lefties and righties, it fits. While Watson is substantially better against left-handers, that’s just because he’s been phenomenal against them. He’s only pretty good against right-handers, holding them to a .226/.292/.369 line over his career. He would make the Giants’ bullpen much better.

The hangup, then? The Giants have spent all offseason doing an elaborate dance to get under the luxury tax threshold. They traded Matt Moore. They traded Christian Arroyo just to get rid of Denard Span. Every single thing they’ve done this offseason has been predicated on resetting the luxury tax penalties for next year. Would they really blow it up for the final piece of their bullpen?

Maybe, maybe not. Seems unlikely after all that work to limbo under the tax, though. So let’s see what this would take. The Giants are currently at $190.3 million in adjusted salary when it comes to the luxury tax, according to Spotrac. This would give the Giants about $6 million to spend, except that figure doesn’t include any pre-arbitration players, like Chris Stratton or Ty Blach. And it certainly doesn’t include what they’ll pay all of the players who shuffle on and off the 40-man roster all season. If 12 Giants suffer injuries on Opening Day — I mean, you watched last season, so don’t roll your eyes — and the team brings up 12 rookies making the minimum, they’ll push against the cap right away.

(That’s not likely, of course, but you get the idea. The more injuries they have, the more they’re forced to bring players up at the minimum salary, and it all counts against the luxury tax.)

Also at Spotrac, we have a list of the Giants players making more than the minimum salary. Go through that with me and count all the players who a) aren’t completely essential to their plans in 2018 and b) make a small enough salary to entice another team. I have two: Sam Dyson and Cory Gearrin. The former makes roughly $4.4 million, and the latter makes $1.7 million. It would be easy to trade them both, I would think, and it’s possible that the Giants see their stable of young right-handers (Roberto Gomez, Reyes Moronta, Pierce Johnson, Joan Gregorio) as something that would allow them to swap a right-hander out for a left-hander.

Considering that Gearrin makes just a little bit more than a million over the minimum salary, though, it’s hard to see the Giants dealing him and not getting that much wiggle room under the cap.

It would have to be Dyson.

Or it would have to be the Giants saying, “Nuts to the luxury tax.”

Neither one of those scenarios feels especially likely to me, so I’m stuck. But it’s not just Nightengale hearing this.

The Giants did something unexpected to get under the luxury tax threshold by trading Matt Moore. Will they do something else that we aren’t looking for? It’s not like the bullpen can’t use the versatile help that Watson would provide, and it would help prevent them from counting on a Tommy John veteran for 81 outings.

I just don’t see how it happens. But I’ve been surprised before.