The Seattle Mariners seem to be focused on trades to upgrade their team in specific positions. One of those areas is the bullpen and finding a lefty pitcher. The Pittsburgh Pirates might have the answer in the form of Tony Watson.
The Mariners have been eyeing Brett Cecil, but they might be outpriced by the Toronto Blue Jays, intent on keeping Cecil who made $3.9 million last season but will go for much more in 2017 going forward. Like in their search for a starting shortstop, the trade market seems to offer more value, like Watson. The 31-year old made $3.4 million last season, and through arbitration could end up going to $5.9 million.
Watson is one of those players who can be plugged in any inning with a relief assignment and get the job done. He became the Pirates closer once they traded Mark Melancon. He didn’t have the kind of year he had in 2015, but he still finished with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.064 WHIP, with a 2.40 ERA since 2012 with a very good 45% ground ball rate in that timeframe. He is especially difficult to hit for left handed hitters, batting just .190 against him. He holds his own against right handed pitchers as well, batting .214 against him. Watson has been with the Pirates his entire MLB career, starting in 2011.
Watson might not be perfect for the closer role, having blown five saves out of 20 opportunities, but the Mariners think that improving their bullpen is a must, considering they don’t have the available money to compete with other teams for the premier closers like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, or for the better starting pitchers on the market. With a so-so rotation and a lot of money invested in their heavy hitters, trading for a bullpen upgrade seems like the best route. Whether or not they have the prospects to make a deal with the Pirates, as Seattle are also involved in other trade talks for a shortstop, is another question.