As the 2019 trade deadline nears, the Yankees’ pursuit of a starting pitcher has driven the conversation. The Yankees clearly could use another rotation arm as they gear up for another pennant push, but the market for a game-changing starting pitcher is not great this year. There are a few decent candidates, like Trevor Bauer, Madison Bumgarner, and Marcus Stroman, but none of them necessarily move the needle like, say, a Max Scherzer would, and Scherzer is almost certainly not available.
So why shut the door on the option of adding another reliever? Most Yankee fans will roll their eyes at the idea of this, and frankly, it’s hard to blame them. This team’s strength is their bullpen; wherever you look there is an elite reliever laying around. So why would the Yankees need another one?
Well, to start, Dellin Betances has been injured all season, and has experienced multiple setbacks thus far. He has begun a throwing program but has yet to determine a potential return date or timeline for return. If Betances doesn’t come back, or if he is compromised in any way when he does return, another reliever could be helpful. Also, a lack of depth in the rotation would still most likely mean the Yankees might have to beat teams with their offense and their bullpen when it comes down to it in October. So, in the end, it can’t hurt to make a strength even stronger.
A potential option for the Yankees and Brian Cashman would be to look into Tony Watson. Watson, a nine-year veteran, is playing on a bad Giants team, but is having a great season. San Francisco would most likely love to give him up for a couple of the Yankees prospects (provided they don’t continue their surge into NL Wild Card contention). Watson has a 3.11 ERA on the year, to go along with a 1.17 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 37.2 innings pitched.
Watson also has some postseason experience with the Pirates, and with the Dodgers most recently in 2017. Watson has given up four runs in twelve innings while walking two and striking out five in his postseason career. For his regular season career, Watson owns a sparkling 2.70 ERA as reliever. Also of note is Watson’s excellent control, as he sports a top-five walk percentage in the league this season at an incredibly low 3.2%.
Walks are often what gets relievers in trouble late in games. A pitcher that rarely walks batters can add another interesting wrinkle to a loaded bullpen that doesn’t exactly have many command artists at its disposal.
A starting pitcher should be the priority for this team with Luis Severino’s return in question. However, if the Yankees were to take this route, Tony Watson would surely be a good candidate to improve the bullpen, with Betances’ status up in the air as well. The addition of another reliever might not ultimately be the most popular move, but there is some merit to it.