If you considered the 2020 bullpen a growing concern, Tony Watson’s decision to exercise his player option for next season should partially allay some concerns. He’ll have a $2.5 million base salary and up to $5 million in incentives that he can earn, which if that happens means he’s had a fantastic bounce back season.
Relievers are a mostly unreliable bunch year to year, but even as Watson has shown obvious, unfortunate decline since turning 30 —
2015 (30): 204 ERA+ | 1.91 ERA/2.84 FIP
2016 (31): 136 ERA+ | 3.06 ERA/4.37 FIP
2017 (32): 126 ERA+ | 3.38 ERA/4.45 FIP
2018 (33): 147 ERA+ | 2.59 ERA/2.45 FIP
2019 (34): 101 ERA+ | 4.17 ERA/4.81 FIP
— there’s always that promise that he can put together one more solid campaign, barring injury.
That’s the rub in Watson’s case. His 2019 ended in early September so that he could have surgery on a fractured wrist. He had a 10.61 ERA in 9.1 August innings, so there’s a decent chance the repaired wrist restores enough of his ability. And, remember, he pitched with the wrist fracture for more than a few days.
After a rough four-game stretch in August where he gave up 10 runs in 1.2 innings, he had a 1.23 ERA over his final eight appearances, including 1.2 scoreless innings against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
It’s a good situation for the Giants. No team would’ve offered Watson the opportunity to earn up to $7.5 million on a 1-year deal, not coming off wrist surgery and not entering his age 35-season, so they get the chance to see if a borderline upper tier reliever can deliver for them one more season. And, if not, the $2.5 million base salary won’t get in the way of the team doing anything else with the roster. He’s even a trade chip as the team enters the Winter Meetings, should any other team be interested in taking on actual salary (don’t hold your breath).
At least the bullpen vaguely resembles something that could, perhaps, be decent at some point. Assuming Shaun Anderson gets moved to the bullpen, it’s looking like this at the moment:
Obviously, figure that will change once we get deeper into the offseason, and given that the Giants are probably going to tank the living Posey out of 2020, wholly irrelevant, too, but for that reason alone, having a known quantity like Watson back, even temporarily, means we won’t be in totally uncharted territory. Thanks for sticking around while management sorts things out, Tony Watson. It’s okay to be here because of the money, just don’t get too upset about all the losing.