SCOTTSDALE — The competition for one bullpen spot is over before it ever started.
The Giants agreed to terms on a two-year deal with left-hander Tony Watson, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area. The deal, first reported by FanRag Sports, is for two years, with a player option for a third year. It is creatively structured, with incentives spread throughout to help limit the tax hit in 2018. Even with the late additions of Watson and Austin Jackson — who signed a similar deal — the Giants will remain under the tax line, a priority throughout the winter. Financial details were not immediately available.
Watson, 32, is a longtime Pittsburgh Pirate who was traded to the Dodgers last season. He was expected to get a bigger deal, but got caught up in the strangest offseason in recent memory. In seven big league seasons, Watson has a 2.68 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He had a 3.38 ERA in 71 appearances for the Pirates and Dodgers last year. Mark Melancon, his longtime teammate, said he has been recruiting Watson since September. The two live about 45 minutes away from each other in the offseason and spoke Friday and Saturday.
"I couldn't be more ecstatic," Melancon said. "The guy is one of the most professional people I've been around. There's not one negative thing I could say about him. He's one of the more polished people I've been around."
Melancon said many of their conversations revolved around the potential of this group of Giants getting back to the postseason.
"He told me that from the other side (in Los Angeles), this is a postseason team," Melancon said. "We're built for the postseason."
Watson will be Bruce Bochy’s primarily left-handed reliever early in the season, and once Will Smith returns around May 1, the Giants should have an imposing duo from that side. Watson is a former All-Star who at times was used as Pittsburgh’s closer, and he’s likely to team with Smith, former teammate Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson and Hunter Strickland to help the Giants get through the final three innings.
The move was surprising not because of the player, but because of the contract. The Giants entered camp with little breathing room under the tax line, but general manager Bobby Evans has repeatedly proven adept at structuring contracts. The Giants got money back in the Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria deals and used a similar structure for Watson and Jackson.
The end result? The Giants have added four important pieces to the roster, while avoiding going into the tax for a fourth consecutive season. In Watson, they get the lefty Bochy has been looking for since Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez retired. Josh Osich, Steven Okert and Derek Holland were expected to compete for that job this spring.