October 4, 2023

Phillies agree to minor-league contract with veteran relief pitcher Tony Watson


Photo by Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Phillies have thrown yet another veteran relief pitcher into the their’ bullpen mix. As pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater, Florida for their first spring-training workout, the Phillies agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with lefthander Tony Watson. The 35-year-old will make $3 million, plus as much as $1 million in performance-related bonuses, if he makes the major-league roster.

The Phillies bullpen is a land of opportunity for relievers such as Watson, who had a 2.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings last season for the San Francisco Giants. He has a 2.80 ERA in 680 major-league appearances over the last 10 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Fransisco Giants.

Something to watch with Watson is his average fastball velocity slid to 89.9 mph last season from 93.0 mph in 2019. But like righthander Brandon Kintzler, who signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies last week, Watson has always been known more for getting weak contact on the ground than for piling up strikeouts.

Watson has also stayed consistent over the last few years, too. Of the 254 relievers who appeared in 100 or more games since 2016, he ranks 28th in innings pitched (272 1/3) and 51st in ERA (3.21). Only once during that span has he posted an ERA above 3.38.

He also has been nearly as effective against righthanded hitters (.658 OPS) as lefties (.602) throughout his career.

José Alvarado and JoJo Romero are the primary lefty relievers with major-league experience on the Phillies’ 40-man roster. Ranger Suárez, who pitched well in relief two years ago, was limited to four innings last season because of COVID-19.

Watson joins Kintzler, Héctor Rondón, and Neftalí Feliz as notable relievers with major-league experience who will be in Phillies camp on minor-league contracts. Kintzler and Watson would seem to have the best chance of making the team in a bullpen that includes Archie Bradley, Héctor Neris, Alvarado, and youngsters Romero and Connor Brogdon.

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