The only MLB team hotter than the Giants is the St. Louis Cardinals, and they reportedly are looking to San Francisco's roster in order to improve at the trade deadline.
The Cardinals "have done due diligence" on Giants left-handed reliever Tony Watson, The Athletic's Mark Saxon reported Saturday, but St. Louis has "concerns" about Watson's contract.
I’m told the #STLCards have done due diligence on #SFGiants lefty Tony Watson, probably signaling some interest. Of concern are escalator clauses of $500k each for 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th (which he already has reached), 45th, and 50th appearances. Could make as much as $10.5m.— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) July 26, 2019
Watson has been a key part of a Giants bullpen that has been the team's strength all season. In 42 innings this season, Watson has notched 32 strikeouts and posted a 2.79 ERA. His 4.13 fielding independent pitching (FIP) in 2019 is the fourth-highest of his career, but his 1.07 WHIP is right in line with his career average.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said earlier this week he is looking "to see if there's an upgrade on the left side of the bullpen to complement [Andrew] Miller" (H/T MLB Trade Rumors) and Watson would fit that bill. The Cardinals currently have one lefty to go with Miller in their 'pen (Tyler Webb) and just two other left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster. But those two, Genesis Cabrera and Austin Gomber, are starting pitchers.
Watson needs just 10 more appearances for his contract escalators to hit $10.5 million, and has a player option next season for $2.5 million. While Saxon mentioned that could be a hang-up, it's possible the Giants' own recent run could be, too.
Watson pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Giants' win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday. With Baseball America ranking the Cardinals just below the Giants at 16th in organizational talent, would it be worth it for San Francisco to retain salary to get a prospect back if Farhan Zaidi and Co. believe the team's form is sustainable for the postseason?
With no Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, the Giants' decision on July 31 will be one they have to live with for the remainder of the season. Watson has helped the Giants get back into the playoff mix so far, and could help them stay there down the stretch. But this still is a team with a minus-42 run differential after its hottest run of the season, so it's fair to question whether or not they belong in the mix at all.
What the Giants do with Watson will indicate if they agree.