There is a lot of speculation that Tony Watson could be available on the trade market this offseason. Due to this, I will take a look at his trade value.
Dating back to the 2013 season the Pittsburgh Pirates have had one of the best bullpens in all of Major League Baseball. A big reason for the bullpen success has been left-handed pitcher Tony Watson. However, it is possible that Watson has pitched his last game for the Pirates.
Tony Watson is slated to become a free agent after the 2017 season. Additionally, even without Watson, the Pirates have strong bullpen depth due to pitchers such as Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, A.J. Schugel, and Antonio Bastardo. Therefore, many people are speculating that Watson could be traded this offseason.
So this raises the question about Tony Watson’s trade value. During his six Major League seasons Watson has done a lot of good for the Pirates. However, his trade value is probably not as high as you may think.
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First off, as I said above, Watson will become a free agent after the 2017 season. So any team trading for Watson would only get him for one season. This immediately lowers any player’s trade value.
Secondly, Watson is coming off a poor 2016 season. In 2016 Watson allowed a career high 10 home runs, and his 4.20 xFIP was tied with his rookie season in 2011 for the highest xFIP of his career. Furthermore, his FIP (4.37) and and hard contact rate (24.1 percent) were both the second worst numbers of his career next to his rookie campaign.
Finally, Tony Watson’s left arm has logged a lot of innings in recent seasons. Since 2013 Watson has pitched 292 innings. This is more than any other relief pitcher in all of Major League Baseball. When you combine that with struggles in 2016 a lot of teams, and rightfully so, will worry about wear and tear on Watson’s arm.
There is one thing that raises Watson’s trade value, though. That is the lack of quality left-handed relief pitchers available this offseason. Aroldis Chapman will get grossly overpaid this offseason, but the rest of the left-handed relief market is very mediocre. The next best free agent left-handed relief pitcher is Bret Cecil, whose track record is nowhere near what Watson’s is.
It is possible that a team looking to compete in 2017 that is desperate for left-handed bullpen help could overpay for Watson. However, I do not see that happening. If Watson is traded this offseason, I expect the return to be very underwhelming.
Tony Watson’s offseason will, most likely, not be as high as many will think. I will not have a problem if the Pirates keep Watson, and I also will not have a problem if they trade him. It will all hinge on what type of return they could net for Watson.