Dodgers: Should the Club Bring Back Tony Watson?
The Dodgers have been fairly quiet this off-season with the exception of their massive salary dump trade to bring Matt Kemp back to LA. What will be their next move?
The Dodgers have had a fairly low key winter outside of their shocking trade for Matt Kemp that ended the Dodger tenures of Adrian Gonzalez and Brandon McCarthy. While most of the teams have been quiet this winter the Dodgers only notable free agent signing has been Tom Koehler. Even then, you can file the Koehler signing under the reclamation project category for next season.
The Dodgers lost Brandon Morrow and have some money to spend now that the Dodgers dumped the contracts of Gonzalez, McCarthy, and Kazmir for two years of Matt Kemp. Whether the Dodgers use little or most of the financial wiggle room they created, I doubt the Dodgers go the rest of the off-season without adding another player or two. If the Dodgers do choose to sign another reliever, they should bring back Tony Watson.
Watson was traded for at the trade deadline in return for two prospects. During his Dodger tenure, Watson did nothing to hurt his cause as he posted a 2.70 ERA and only allowed a .208 batting average against. Although he is a southpaw, he fared well against right-handed hitters as they hit only .205 against him versus a .212 average allowed to left-handed hitters. Watson will be thirty-three years old this year but he still averaged 93 miles per hour on his fastball in 2017, despite being known as a ground ball pitcher.
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With the loss of Brandon Morrow, the Dodgers could use a veteran for the eighth inning setup role. While Koehler or Henry Owens may be the next bargain signing to produce, they could also falter and leave Dave Roberts with no trusted option at the end of games other than Kenley Jansen. On days that Jansen cannot pitch, they would really need to figure out how to end games. Watson has closer experience so moving into the closer role for a handful of games a year would not be anything new to him.
Watson would also provide great insurance in case Jansen gets injured. As the roster currently stands, the Dodgers left-handed relievers are Tony Cingrani, Luis Avilan, Adam Liberatore, and Henry Owens. Cingrani was good for the Dodgers last season after coming over from Cincinnati, but he is no lock to repeat his performance from last season. Liberatore has been a dominant lefty when healthy, but the issue is he is hardly ever healthy whether it is knee or arm injuries. Luis Avilan has also run into some injury issues of his own the past couple years in LA.
The Dodgers likely will not spend more than ten million the rest of the off-season and Tony Watson can easily be signed for less than that. Watson will probably land a two-year contract worth 10-12 million total. Five to six million a year is not a bad deal for a proven left-handed reliever with closer experience.
Next: How does the slow free agent market impact the Dodgers?
For a team like the Dodgers that is essentially a lock for the post-season, it’s best to get the proven veteran now, and not have to swing a deadline deal and trade away valuable prospects. It remains to be seen if the Dodgers have any interest in bringing Watson back, but if Friedman wanted to ensure another solid bullpen, he should re-sign Watson before the hot stove heats up.