According to reports, the Dodgers have acquired left handed reliever Tony Watson from the Pirates. The deal is still pending a medical review. It is not known yet what’s going back to the Pirates in the deal, but reports are confirming two minor leaguers are headed to Steel town in the swap. (Update) The minor leaguers headed to the Pirates are……
The Pirates have acquired minor leaguers Angel German (RHP) & Oneil Cruz (INF) from the Dodgers in exchange for LHP Tony Watson.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) July 31, 2017
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2017
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 31, 2017
As for Watson, he’s not terrible, but nothing to write home about. He’s essentially a serviceable left handed middle reliever with potential upside. The 32-year old southpaw has spent his entire career with the Pirates. He made his MB debut in 2011. Perhaps his best season with the Bucs was in 2014. In that season he posted a 10-2 record with a 1.63 ERA in 78 games.
This season he’s pitched in 47 games and posted a 3.66 ERA while allowing 11.0 hits per nine innings. He’s posted a 6.8 K/9 rate while striking out 35 in 46.2 innings pitched. He’s allowed 7 home runs and 14 walks while posting a 2.5-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Watson primarily throws a four-seamer, sinker, and changeup. He can also throw in a slider as well. His four-seamer and sinker top out at around 94 mph, while his change and slider are normally thrown around 85-86 mph.
His ground ball percentage this season has decreased from 43.8% last year, to 43.6% this year. That’s still fairly consistent. His LOB% is 84.1% this season and he’s recorded ten saves this year out of the Pirate’s bullpen.
Declining strikeout rates
There is some concern with Watson. One concern is his declining strikeout rates. In 2014 he was striking out 9.4 per nine. This season that’s plummeted to 6.8 per nine.
Watson had posted an ERA of 4.97 in June and the Pirates had to move him out of the closer role. He gave up 17 hits in 12.2 innings pitched in the month of June. May was a tough month for him as well, as he posted a 5.14 ERA and allowed 19 hits in 14 frames.
Problems against left handed hitters
Watson has allowed a .308 average against left handers. They’re 20 for 65 against him with a .711 OPS in 71 plate appearances. (He’s also struggled against right handers as well)
The good part is that Watson has been pitching better of late. He’s posted a 2.53 ERA in July and allowed just three earned runs in 10.2 innings pitched this month.
Watson is having a somewhat down year, but he’s been a relatively effective reliever for the majority of his career. As I’ve said before, it’s important to acquire players who are playing well during the trade deadline, or having good seasons. Anyone having a down year is unlikely to help you down the stretch or in the postseason.
However the Dodgers needed to pick up a left hander for the bullpen. Right now the only active lefty reliever they have is Luis Avilan, and the only other left hander available that can help is Grant Dayton and neither of them are very good. Watson at least gives the Dodgers another left handed option and opposing hitters a different look. I’m willing to give him a chance and see how he performs. It’s important to keep your expectations low though, and I will.