Dodgers trade for Pirates LHP Tony Watson, looking to reverse a trend in his results


After much flirting with the impact lefty reliever trio of Zach Britton, Brad Hand, and Justin Wilson, the Dodgers have ended up settling for left-handed reliever Tony Watson from the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of Facebook, I guess (though Dodgers Digest had gotten word of this one well beforehand).

The return for the lefty reliever will be right-handed pitcher Angel German and third baseman Oneil Cruz, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Orange County Register.

From 2014-15, Watson was a back-end reliever, putting up stellar numbers for the Pirates. However, he struggled upon being moved to the closer role in late 2016 and continued to regress in the role in 2017.

If that looks like potential disaster it’s because it definitely could be, and quite frankly, I kind of expect it to be. However, there are some positives to latch onto. Since being removed from a late-inning role this year, Watson has posted a 1.72 ERA in 18 games and 15.2 innings. Furthermore, Watson does still seem to be effective against lefties despite the uptick in OPS against, as the main cause of that is a .385 BABIP against.

In terms of stuff, there’s some things to like, as Watson’s velocity hasn’t tailed off with him still averaging 92-95 mph on his fastball, and he rounds out the rest of his arsenal with a slider around 84-86 and a change around 85-87.

Watson is a free agent after the season and is making $5.6 million this year.

Cruz is a super projectable 18-year-old that’s currently hitting .240/.293/.342/.635 in A-ball. He’s splitting time between short and third at the moment, but will eventually have to move to the hot corner. When looking at his line it’s best to remember he’s a raw teenager that’s still growing into his 6’6″ frame. In’s latest update, he checked in at #21.

With his whippy left-handed swing and the leverage provided by his frame, he has considerable power potential that he’ll begin to realize as he gets stronger. His quick hands are an asset as he tries to make more consistent contact as such a young hitter with such a naturally long stroke. Cruz has exceptional body control for someone his size and can play a decent shortstop. His size makes him destined to be a third baseman, and he has the agility and arm strength to be a solid defender there. A long strider who has above-average speed underway, he’ll probably lose a step once he fills out.

He’s so far away that it’s hard to care too much, but man this is a player I’d rather have kept to see how he develops.

German is a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher in A-ball with a big arm. After a disastrous full-season debut last year (7.45 ERA), he has rebounded this year with a 1.91 ERA in 33 innings in relief, striking out 37 and walking 14. As a reliever in A-ball the ceiling appears limited, but it’s an arm that sits in the mid-90s and touches triple digits, and that’s always in demand.


While Watson certainly has upside, it definitely seems as if the Dodgers missed out on an impact pen option from the left side, one they can actually trust in the playoffs. Watson likely makes an already deep pen better, but middle relief isn’t an area they needed to upgrade, and one has to wonder if this is the type of southpaw that they can turn to against the best lefty bats with the game on the line.

That said, the trade itself is fine value with neither German or Cruz being included in Dustin’s Midseason Top 30 Prospects. Of course, given the prices of relief this off-season and the fact that Watson is a rental and performing rather mediocre at the moment, it’s a surprise to have to give up two upside guys like this. I suppose one just has to hope that the Dodgers see something that’s fixable in Watson that can get him back to something close to his excellent 2014-15 form.

About Chad Moriyama

Avatar photo
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times