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Giants sign Tony Watson, improve bullpen dramatically

The left-handed reliever will help bolster the Giants’ bullpen in the late innings.

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Left-handed reliever Tony Watson has agreed to terms with the Giants, according to Robert Murray and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The deal is reportedly a multi-year deal, although the exact terms are unknown for now. They’ll be revealed as soon as I close my laptop.

Edit: Two years, $7 million guaranteed, with a player option and all sorts of escalators that help limit the luxury-tax hit in 2018. No, I don’t really understand it, either.

Watson is something of a late-inning prize, as his ability to get left-handers and right-handers out is an ultra-desirable one, and for as slow as this offseason has been, the best relievers were snatched up quickly. For whatever reason, though, Watson hung around to the point where the Giants could swoop in after pitchers and catchers have already reported.

There has to be a concession, here. One of the following has to be true:

  1. The Giants have traded someone who makes a significant salary to make room for Watson
  2. The Giants are willing to go beyond the luxury tax threshold for Watson
  3. The Giants are paying Watson $2 million or less, which allows them to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

Which one of those makes sense? ŊƠṊḔ ŎƑ ŢĦƐⱮ. Absolutely none of them. I don’t see the Giants trading Sam Dyson to make room for Watson. I don’t see the Giants doing all sorts of awkward contortions for four freaking months to get under the luxury tax, just to give it up in February because Will Smith might miss the first month of the season. And I don’t see Watson working for Keiichi Yabu money, not when he’s accomplished so much in his career and is coming off a strong season.


Except, and hear me out: A 20-year, $20 million contract.

This would be the Bobby Bonilla of contracts. In 2038, when President Duchovny is rationing your water, the Giants would still owe Watson a million bucks. But it would sure fit under the luxury tax this year.

That probably didn’t happen.

But something happened! Maybe the Giants are in a screw-it-let’s-party mode if they’re contending by July 31, and they’re willing to go over the tax if this wacky plan works. And if they’re under .500, they’ll shed some salary, no big deal, and get under the tax.

Edit: So the deal is an average of $2.33 million without the escalators, which I’m assuming really get going in year two of the deal. He agreed to Keiichi Yabu money, but if he’s still throwing well next year, he’ll make a healthy amount. It’s hard to believe no one else wanted Watson for under $10 million guaranteed.

Regardless, here’s what this means for the Giants: They’re better. Upgrading from Josh Osich and/or Steven Okert to Watson is pretty freaking substantial. One of those pitchers (or Derek Holland, or maybe even Ty Blach) will be around for the start of the season while Will Smith recovers, but the Giants will have a steady left-handed presence in the late innings for the beginning of the season.

Watson threw 66⅔ innings last year, striking out 53 and walking 20, with a 3.38 ERA. He was effective with the Dodgers after a midseason trade, including two wins in the World Series in five appearances. While his ERA has outmatched his FIP for most of his seven-year career, Watson’s left-handed funk-sink is one of the unusual profiles that makes it hard to trust FIP entirely. Over 453 career innings, the ERA is probably more predictive.

This is Tony Watson:

Do you hear the announcer make the Sherlock Holmes pun? That means it’s off the table for you. Forever.

Ah, but he will combine with Kyle Crick for the greatest DNA joke that we can possibly ...


aw, nuts


Still, if you’re looking for a recent comp, it’s Jeremy Affeldt. That’s not hyperbolic. That’s the best possible comparison. Did you like Affeldt in his prime? Well, Watson will be 33 next year, so he’s not exactly the same age that Affeldt was when he came to the Giants, but the profiles are similar, and so is the usage. Dude’s good.

Will Watson come out of the bullpen in the third inning of a series-clincher in the NLCS after Derek Holland wings a baseball at Chase Utley? Probably. But he doesn’t have to if he wants to give the Giants value.

Now we just have to figure out how the Giants made this work.

Because that part surrrre doesn’t make sense from here.

I mean, if they’re going to go over the luxury tax, they should sign J.D. Martinez and Lance Lynn. It’s not my money, and they’re hosed in a couple years anyway.

But back to the news: bullpen better. This good. Bullpen better when good. Good bullpen. Yes. Welcome, Tony Watson.