Sports Free Agent Fit: Does Tony Watson make sense for Blue Jays?

06:52  08 december  2017
06:52  08 december  2017 Source:   Sportsnet

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image: Reliever Tony Watson has some closing experience over the past two seasons.<br />© image Reliever Tony Watson has some closing experience over the past two seasons.

During the off-season we’ll be taking a closer look at some potential free agent targets for the Toronto Blue Jays. Today it’s Tony Watson.

Player: Tony Watson | Age: 32 | Position: RP | Throws: Left

2017 stats: 71 G | IP 66.2 | ERA 3.38 | FIP 4.45 | WHIP: 1.380 | K/9: 7.2

MLB Trade Rumours Signing Prediction

Two years, $12 million, Blue Jays.

Why he’s a potential fit for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays’ bullpen skews right-handed, with Aaron Loup in line to be the primary south paw. Watson represents an instant upgrade and can likely be had on a reasonable deal.

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The consistent seven-year veteran has plenty of closing experience — he collected 25 saves over the past two seasons — and could be counted on to fill in whenever Robert Osuna needs a rest. Otherwise, Watson would slide nicely into a setup role for the Blue Jays. He’s effective against right-handers and would thus provide manager John Gibbons with plenty of late-game matchup options.

In other words, Watson has potential to fill the left-handed void created by Brett Cecil, who departed Toronto following the 2016 season.

Watson spent six years with the Pirates before being traded this past July to the Dodgers and proved to be a worthy addition during the club’s post-season run. Across 11 playoff games he allowed just two runs on five hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out three.

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Why he might not be a fit for the Blue Jays

While there’s a lot to like about Watson, his recent regression shouldn’t be overlooked. His combined home run rates (1.3/9) and FIP (4.41) have spiked considerably over the past two seasons compared to what they were pre-2016.

In addition, his ERA and strikeout numbers today are nowhere near the territory of his spectacular 2014 all-star campaign. That year, Watson posted a 1.63 ERA and 9.4 K/9 rate while appearing in a league-high 78 games.

Relievers can be volatile from season to season and it’s worth noting Watson turns 33 in May. Left-hander J.P. Howell was 34 this past season and his signing turned ugly quick for the Blue Jays when his production unexpectedly fell off a cliff.

Watson is a step below Mike Minor, who just signed with the Rangers (three years, $28 million), and fellow free agent lefty Jake McGee. If the Blue Jays can snag him on a two-year deal, they should be happy, but if Watson commands a three-year contract, as some suggest he will, things get murkier.

The latest Tony Watson buzz

The rumour mill surrounding Watson, who hired super agent Scott Boras in May, has been quiet so far. That figures to change, though, with Minor now off the board. The Red Sox and Yankees, in addition to the Blue Jays, could use a Watson-type lefty in their bullpens.

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