Chicago Cubs: Is left-hander Tony Watson a ‘must-have’ for team?
By Jake Misener
With a clear focus on the pitching staff this offseason, could another former Dodgers reliever in Tony Watson be what the Chicago Cubs need?
The Chicago Cubs saw what a shaky bullpen can cost you when the Los Angeles Dodgers ran roughshod over the reigning champs in the 2017 National League Championship Series. After adding one member of the Dodgers’ pen, Brandon Morrow, via free agency, a second could put Chicago in a good spot.
Both of the team’s high-profile bullpen acquisitions, Steve Cishek and Morrow, are right-handed. Dario Alvarez, one of the club’s early pick-ups, is left-handed. But whether or not he’s going to be an impact piece remains to be seen. In-house, the Cubs boast Justin Wilson, Rob Zastryzny and Mike Montgomery – but only Wilson profiles as an impact reliever.
Yesterday, I looked at what it could mean if Montgomery starts. It leaves a big hole in the Cubs bullpen – especially from the left side. Bringing in Tony Watson could go a long way in filling that void.
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Long before he was a member of the Dodgers, Watson stared down the Cubs. The southpaw served as a member of the Pirates’ ‘Shark Tank’ bullpen during their brief run a few years back. From 2013 to 2015, Watson put up a 1.97 ERA in 222 appearances. His 188 ERA+ and 2.91 FIP demonstrate just how effective he was for Pittsburgh.
Last year, the Pirates flipped him to the Dodgers mid-season and Los Angeles got a shot in the arm. Down the stretch, Watson posted a 2.70 earned run average in 24 appearances. Come October, the former All-Star did not allow an earned run in either the LCS or World Series.
Why he makes sense for the Cubs
Watson isn’t the guy he was in Pittsburgh. That’s fine. He remains a quality lefty reliever who can get big outs in high-stress situations.
During his career, as the season winds down, the southpaw steps up. He owns a 1.73 lifetime earned run average in September and October, to go along with a .190 opponent batting average. With runners in scoring position, he limits teams to an icy .255 on-base percentage.
I love Justin Wilson. When Theo added him, I genuinely felt like he was the missing piece and put the Cubs over the top. Then, the wheels fell off and now, I’m not sure what I should expect out of him in 2018. My thought? Go into it expecting the worse – and planning for it, too. Watson takes the pressure off Wilson entirely. If both are locked in, the Cubs boast two shutdown relievers from the left side.
Next: Cubs could do far worse than Monty in fifth rotation spot
Once the postseason starts, bullpens are everything. The idea of Watson and Wilson hooking up with Carl Edwards, Pedro Strop, Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek is tantalizing, to say the least. Will the Cubs pull the trigger? You have to think they’re at least kicking the tires on someone they know so intimately – for all the wrong reasons.