11:33am: San Francisco isn’t the only team in the mix, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, who tweets that the Phillies, Red Sox, and unstated other teams are also still involved.
10:20am: The Giants are engaged in “serious contract talks” with southpaw reliever Tony Watson, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter). It is not clear at this time what sort of contractual terms the sides are contemplating, but Watson is clearly the best lefty pen piece still unsigned at this stage.
This is certainly an interesting bit of news, due largely to San Francisco’s closely watched effort to improve while staying shy of the competitive balance tax line. Recent tabulations have suggested the team is only $2MM or so beneath the $197MM threshold at present, leaving little room for a player of Watson’s anticipated price.
If the Giants were to accept the luxury tax for the 2018 season, it’s at least fair to wonder whether they’d plan to go further over the line to add other players. On the other hand, part of the team’s strategy could be to engineer a mid-season sell-off to get back below the line if things don’t go quite as hoped.
As things stand, the Giants’ depth chart features Steven Okert as the top southpaw on hand. Josh Osich and D.J. Snelten also represent 40-man options, with recent minor-league signee Derek Holland perhaps also factoring in the mix if he cannot earn a rotation slot. San Francisco will ultimately hope for a bounce back from Will Smith, who is looking to return from a Tommy John procedure that was performed just before the start of the 2017 season, but clearly there’s some room for improvement.
Entering the winter, Watson was tabbed as the 44th-best free agent in MLBTR’s ranking of the top 50 open-market players. We guessed the 32-year-old could command $12MM in total guaranteed money over two years. While he has plenty of general late-inning experience, our assessment was that he’d be pursued (and paid) more as a quality lefty specialist. Watson, after all, has long been much more effective against opposing lefties.