The Phillies are in agreement on a minor league contract with veteran left-handed reliever Tony Watson, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com (via Twitter). He’ll be in Major League Spring Training and compete for a bullpen job.
Watson, a client of the Boras Corporation, would earn $3MM if he makes the big league roster, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports (Twitter link). As with fellow Phillies non-roster invitee Brandon Kintzler, that $3MM sum represents a relatively large potential salary for a minor league signee. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale further adds that Watson could earn an additional $1MM via incentives.
There’s been some surprise that Watson settled for a minor league arrangement after the veteran lefty notched a tidy 2.50 ERA in 18 innings with the Giants last year and generally pitched well for them. However, Watson’s fastball velocity plummeted by more than three miles per hour in 2020, dropping from just over 93 mph to 89.9 mph. Watson still managed a strong 12.9 percent swinging-strike rate and a career-high 40.6 percent opponents’ chase rate, but the velo dip for a pitcher in his mid-30s was likely something of a concern for interested parties.
It’s not the first time that Watson’s market (or lack thereof) has been a source of some surprise. Watson had a $2.5MM player option with the Giants last offseason that seemed like a no-brainer to decline, but he instead reworked that contract and took a one-year, $3MM deal with the Giants in early November rather than actually exploring the market. Given a solid 2018-19 showing in San Francisco (3.30 ERA, 23 K%, 5.3 BB%) and a generally thin market for lefty relief, that decision was also rather unexpected.
It’s possible that, like Kintzler, Watson had some smaller Major League offers but chose to bet on himself with a non-guaranteed deal and the appeal of a potentially more lucrative base salary. Regardless of the market factors that led to today’s agreement, it looks to be a nice pickup for a Phillies club in desperate need of a bullpen makeover. Watson has a long track record of success, pitching 10 years at the MLB level with a composite 2.80 ERA and only one single-season ERA north of 4.00 (4.17 in 2019). He’s worked as both a closer and a setup man, and unlike many lefties he doesn’t carry a sizable platoon split.
Since naming Dave Dombrowski president of baseball operations, the Phillies have signed Archie Bradley, traded for Jose Alvarado and brought in Watson, Kintzler, Hector Rondon and Neftali Feliz on non-guaranteed deals. On the starting staff, they’ve signed both Chase Anderson and Matt Moore as back-of-the-rotation options while inking Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell to minor league deals. At the very least, the Phils should have a deeper staff — starters and relievers alike — than in 2020.
that’s money right there. as long as we dont have tye Liriano situation over again I feel good about this pen now.
Ducky Buckin Fent
You guys got him on an MiLB deal?
That’s a win. Watson is good.
Patience in the reliever market is paying off for a few GM’s.
He is a big upgrade over Morgan
Well thats not really the question, is he better than Ranger Suarez JoJo Romero and comparable to Jose Alvarado since I can’t see us having more than 3 lefties.
good thing is all three are optionable so you can cycle them.
Yeah, if I could choose I would leave Romero down in AAA to develop a tad, but he is definitely major league-ready.
Not even close. Watson has always been able to get people out. Dombrowski gets an A+ for this off season.
This is a terrific signing by DD, Sam Fuld and the front office.
not sure about good, but I feel much better. still don’t have a real closer.
Liriano was done in Pittsburgh. The Pirates had to give away two of their top prospects just to get rid of his salary. He wasn’t good for the Blue Jays and barely pitched for the Astros out of the pen. Watson is the man. 7th or 8th inning. he will get the job done.
How is he only on a minor league deal. This guy has been solid.
teams waited him out
Age and I think there were advanced metrics that werent good
Watson is cooked
He’s getting older and gave up a lot of home runs last year. Meh ERA estimators as well. But he definitley could be one of the best minor league signings this off season.
it was three homers…
I mean in 20 innings that can be a lot for some people
1.5 HR/9 rate the last 2 years isn’t too good for someone you’re looking to rely on for higher leverage situations. Those are career worst marks.
keep in mind it’s the Phillies bullpen 3 Hrs/9 would be good for that hot mess.
The thing I’m worried about is that he was prone to the long ball in a pitcher friendly park. Now he’s going to Citizens Bank Park.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis For MVP
In Watson’s defense. he has a pretty consistent track record of outpitching his ERA estimators. Of course there’s always the chance of his luck turning, but I don’t see it as a huge red flag (especially on a minor league deal)
@mlb1225 are you looking at a different players stats? You seem to be mistaken.
No, I’m looking at Tony Watson. 4.36 FIP, 4.12 FIP, 3.75 SIERA, 3.81 xERA, 4.56 DRA. Overall. not awful numbers, but pretty meh/average. Plus he had a 1.5 HR/9 rate the last 2 seasons, which isn’t necessarily good for someone that you’re putting in higher levaerage situations.
I was specifically referring to the “gave up a lot of homeruns last year” comment. Because he didn’t.
Should say that he gave up a lot of home runs on average. A 1.5 HR/9 isn’t very good. It’s even worse when you consider his home stadium was a pitcher friendly venue.
Watson has always pitched better than his peripherals
Gotcha that’s fair. The long ball is always a concern in Philly.
I was hoping Nats got him, but he is a ground ball pitcher. so thats good for Phillies park. He is old so he is not a guy you want pitching every day. More of a big situation guy
How well did those ERA estimators line up with his actual ERA? If they didn’t, they are not very good estimators.
Mendoza Line 215
Sty-I usually look at the many era equivalent statistical estimators with a jaundiced eye.How many do we really need?But the use of era to evaluate one inning relievers is clearly subject to annual accuracy fluctuations when used to compare pitchers.Thus the best statistical one may be as accurate if not more so for small data groups,let alone one during a 60 game season.
Easy Trea Turner bombs
It’s just simply amazing that this guy only was able to find a minor league deal!
God… this Luc guy is really annoying me like literally every post he finds a way to talk trash about one team and be like oMg tHe nAtIoNaLs aRe sOoOOoOO gOoD.
ERA was 260 and lifetime era 2.8 era estimators about the same they’ve been. Even when he signed with the Giants, he had to sign a contract full of incentives.
Lol im a Nats fan I got to trash talk what did you expect.
Lol, are you twelve? Lol.
You are quite immature then as I myself am only 13 and you act 8.
Ok can’t take a little smack. Im trying to be positive heading into the season. Idk care how bad my team is I will always talk smack. Who cares, you should defend yourself. When the Nats signed Schwarber you should say easy Nola strikeouts. Call me 8 but I ain’t no wussy
“I don’t know care how bad my team is I will always talk smack” Please, go back to 3rd grade. You disrespect major league baseball players in half your posts, you being 14 is no excuse for this behavior on a major league baseball rumor site.
When do I disrespect players lol. Give me an example. You must be some soft kid if you can’t take, ” Easy Trea Bombs.” You need to get smacked
Hmm? Maybe saying Kyle Schwarber is an easy strikeout is a little disrespectful. As for me being soft, I am not soft I am quite frankly just done with idiot posters like you.
How is that disrespecting its called not being soft. Plus you Philly fans have no place to say disrespect players, my god you boo your own players. You boo players that have done one thing to you. You booed Harper then whined to get him, and booed him again. Im pretty sure Nats fan have only booed Harper and Jose Tabata. Philly fans are disrespectful to their own team
I can’t say for the whole fan base but ill only boo one player as a Phillies fan and that is Oduble Herra (I have 0 clues how to spell his name)
Generalizing fanbases is foolish. If you think thousands of people all act the same because they wear a Phillies or Nationals hate, then I’m sorry for your ignorance. I get it. You’re 14. The Nats are a fun team. Enjoy.
*hat. Freudian slip. My mind goes to hate when talking about the Nats lol
I’m sorry once again doing that. I know I shouldn’t do that, Philly fans are loyal its just on TV it sounds like the whole crowd and it always happend. I just don;t like it when some fans boo their own players at times.
The Phillies bullpen gets more solid on a daily basis Dombrowski gets it.
I like this for the Phillies. They need a ton of depth, and honestly, they need at least one more.
Really surprised at the minor league deal.
He likely only got a minor league deal I’m guessing because they have to pitch a full inning now.
Not a bad pickup
I’m shocked he only got a minor league deal. There has to be tons of incentives a few opt out dates and a decent mlb salary
This is a great signing by the Phillies. Hard to believe no one offered better than a minor league deal. One year over 4.00 ERA and that was only 4.17. I know he’s 36 soon but he’s never thrown a lot of innings. Dombrowski is already running circles around Klentak.
Good move by Philly. Watson has been good for a long time.
If they bring in a guy like Jeffress or Rosenthal I think the bullpen is set. I would really like them to take a flyer on Walker or Hamels for the rotation. Make those moves and I think this team is ready to roll.
Walker ain’t really a flyer IMO, but a Hamels return would be cool. He would play with Harper tho lol
Another nice acquisition that allows the Phillies to preserve a roster spot until the spring. World Series champ with good splits. Girardi likes to have assigned roles for his bullpen personnel and Watson will be used in tight games, prob the 7th. Only way he doesn’t make the team is if he gets shellacked in the Grapefruit league.
When was he a WS champ??
yeah he has seen a lot of post season play but he hasn’t actually won a WS
Thanks for the correction, thought for sure he had won one with the Giants.
He did get the W in two of the Dodgers World Series wins against the Astros, if that helps.
He had a big velocity drop last year. He may be cooked. I would have preferred they bring Alvarez back.
he’s still out there, for what it’s worth.
0.889 WHIP and a 2.50 ERA, with 15 Ks in 18 innings, and he’s cooked?
As a Giants fan, I can tell you – the Phillies are getting a steal with Watson. He can get righties and lefties out. He can even close out games.
Mendoza Line 215
Watson is a good pitcher but he got the chance to close in Pittsburgh in 2016 when they traded Melancon and he did not do too well.
Those two formed an absolute shutdown pair for the Pirates for about 2 1/2 years.
Loving this, if some of these bounce back candidates from the pen and rotation come to fruition, we could possibly contend. Anything will be better than last year’s pen (right…?)
even if we brought back the entire 2020 pen I think luck would eventually gift us some better performances, and to go from bad pitchers struggling to to good pitchers even pitching less good then they normally do is a huge step up.
Tbh, DarkSide830 as a fellow Phillies fan am I getting too hyped, or does this look like a pretty damn good bullpen?
1. Cp (R) Archie Bradley
2. (L)Jose Alvarado
3. (R)Brandon Kintzler
4. (R)Hector Neris
5. (L)Tony Watson
6. (R)Conner Brogdon
7. (L) JoJo Romero/ Ranger Suarez
8. (R)Either could be Sam Coonrod, Hector Rondon or used as a long-relief spot for David Hale, VV, Spender Howard, Chase Anderson
I could live with that…plus, having actual milb games and the AAA option REALLY helps..
I still contend that VV in an RP role would be his BEST use.
Let it Go
Don’t worry about seeing the lineup a 2nd or 3rd time
Not hating but I feel like Bradley is the only consistent one. Alvarado an be a beast or walk everyone. Neris from what I see has one good month then bad. Kintzler and Watson are old so they are ?. Finally, I feel like the rest are pretty bad. Tell me if i’m missing anything
Lots of gambles, but I like it. I still think they need a SP, but the options out there aren’t great. It’s a pipedream, but if JBjr lowers his price tag, I’d love a real CF. Either way very happy with the Phils offseason. I was fully expecting to be depressed about it.
JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez are both young lefties who have success in the major leagues although a limited success, as for Neris a 3.38 career ERA wouldn’t really mean he only has 1 good month, as well as Watson and Kintzler, might be old, they both know how to pitch. Brogdon is really promising not allowing a run over his last 10 or so appearances, Luc 2
I hear you…total turnaround from Middleton crying poor, pre-Dombrowski.
Yeah, I’m quite pleased with what dealing dave has been able to do with a joke of an owner.
it was all predicated on signing Realmuto- once he was signed spending to fill in other gaps made sense- if Andrew Knapp was the starter, you dont have a shot at playoffs no matter what else they spent money on.
I’m sure alot of pitchers throughout the league had velocity dips last season.Velocity tends to increase as a season plays out.
He’ll be up. He’s too solid to stay in the minors. Add me to the list of people surprised he didn’t get a major league deal
I just can’t help but wonder – the first time Bradley or Kintzler blow a save, are people going to scream and blame Dombrowski like it’s his fault? The last few years, somehow it was always Klentak’s fault whenever a reliever gave up a run, lol. The players are never held accountable for their performance anymore. Give up a run, strike out with runners on base – the GMs fault!!
I think Kapler got the most unwarranted blame, but your point is still valid. To me Klentak’s flaws were many, but the horrendous bullpen had more to do with injuries and bad luck. I think some of the other moves are on Klentak. Bad trades. Bad contracts. Little depth. That’s what I put on Klentak. I thought he made some good moves to fix the pen at the deadline, but nothing worked. I don’t blame him for that.
This is an excellent pickup for the Phils. Watson, even at his age, is a quality arm. Philly’s bullpen looks much improved.
As a Giants fan, I hope he does well for the Phillies, but I’m skeptical. It used to be when Watson came in to a game I was confident he would deliver. But I haven’t felt as confident over the last 2 seasons.
He’s still a competitor, and can use his veteran wiles to get guys out, but he seemed to be a lot more shaky, with less dependable stuff, and less of the close to a sure thing he’d been in previous seasons.
Maybe I’m wrong, because the numbers aren’t that bad, but the velo drop is concerning. I’ve watched every Giants game and there was a sense I got that he’s declining. Just how rapidly is the question.
Why is he on a minor league deal?
Good signing. If the Phillie’s bullpen fail 1/2 the time they did last year, they’re playoff bound
Phillies have certainly helped re-shape their pitching staff.
Nola, Wheeler, Eflin, and some combination of Moore/Velazquez/Anderson/Nova. Sam Howard probably starts the year in the minors. The bullpen seems better as well with the additions of Bradley, Alvarado, Kintzler, and Watson to join Neris, Brogdon, and whomever takes the last two spots
There’s an old saying ” that There’s no substitute for experience…. Tony Watson is a solid veteran, joining what should be an improved Phil’s pen. Bradley, Alvarado, Kintzler, Rondon. Move Vv to pen, with Nova, Moore, and Anderson, Howard vying for 4th, 5th starter spots.
Mendoza Line 215
I have been impressed with DD’s work with the Phillies.Their bullpen is much better and they have pretty decent backups in the extra players brought in.
Seems a little weird, as the article suggests, that he couldn’t find a ML contract given how well he pitched not only last year, but in general over the past several seasons. I’d imagine he either breaks camp with the club or winds up opting out and latching on elsewhere to begin the season… unless he really blows it in spring training.