Dec. 18: It’s a minor league deal for Watkins, tweets Andrew Golden of the Washington Post. He’ll vie for a roster spot in camp next spring.
Dec. 17: The Nationals have signed right-hander Spenser Watkins, as revealed by Watkins himself in a statement on X (via the account of his agency, Gaeta Sports Management). Reports from earlier this week suggested that Watkins was close to a deal with a KBO League team, yet as Watkins explained in his statement, he chose to stay in the United States due to the upcoming birth of his daughter in January.
Watkins, 31, pitched in only Major League game in 2023, allowing five runs over 4 1/3 innings in a start for the Athletics on August 15. The rest of his season was spent at the Triple-A level, with Watkins delivering a 7.86 ERA over 71 combined innings for the top affiliates of the A’s, Astros, and Orioles.
A 30th-round pick for the Tigers in the 2014 draft, Watkins didn’t make his MLB debut until 2021, when he had caught on with the Orioles on a free agent deal. The right-hander posted an 8.07 ERA over 54 2/3 frames for Baltimore that season, and then a 4.70 ERA in 105 1/3 innings in 2022. All in all, that translates to a 5.97 ERA in 164 1/3 career innings for Watkins in the Show, as well as a 13.9% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate.
Working as a starter in 31 of his 40 MLB games and in 122 of his 149 career minor league games, Watkins projects as a depth arm at the Triple-A level. The Nationals are known to be looking for pitching this winter, and while the team will keep looking for more proven upgrades, depth arms like Watkins are a useful commodity to eat innings.