Report: Red Sox in discussions with reliever Tony Watson

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Tony Watson
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Tony Watson /

Tony Watson would make a nice addition to the Red Sox bullpen.

The Boston Red Sox are in discussions with left-handed reliever Tony Watson, per Jon Heyman. The Giants and Phillies are among the other teams who are also interested in Watson.

Watson, 32, is coming off a combined year of 3.38 ERA in 66.2 innings pitched, with 53 strikeouts and 20 walks for the Pirates and Dodgers. He was decent with the Pirates in a statistically down year last season, but he was especially impressive with the Dodgers, where he had a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings with 18 strikeouts.

Watson wouldn’t be a huge acquisition for the Red Sox, but in today’s MLB, you can never have enough relievers. The Red Sox lack a lefty presence in the bullpen, and signing Watson would fill that need. Watson can throw a sinker, slider, changeup and fastball.

Taking a look at the Red Sox bullpen, there aren’t many reliable lefties. Robby Scott had a decent year (3.79 ERA in about 36 innings pitched) but he is more strictly used as a lefty specialist (held lefties to a .121 average).

Brian Johnson is out of Minor League options, and he could also be a candidate to start the year out of the bullpen — though he hasn’t been able to produce a large enough sample size to prove he’s a longterm answer.

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Even if both are legitimate bullpen pieces entering the season, they can’t be trusted against power righties like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Altuve and others. This is an area the Red Sox could improve in by signing Watson. He could potentially throw off righties with his four effective pitches.

The veteran lefty is tough of left-handed batters, but he is nearly as effective against righties. There was a minimal statistical drop off when facing right handers last season. Watson earned a .276/.324/.367 line against lefties, and a .280/.348.460 line against righties. However, he did manage to surrender 16 walks to righties, oppose to four against lefties.

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The Red Sox still haven’t figured out what to do about J.D. Martinez, but there’s no reason they can’t improve their team elsewhere. Strengthening the bullpen is often the key to success, and since Watson is older, he won’t command an expensive contract. On the contrary, he is the best reliever left on the free agent market, so the Red Sox must act quickly before teams enter a bidding war for the lefty’s services.