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Giants add veteran reliever without breaking budget, send away former top prospect

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Tony Watson is bringing his talents to San Francisco. (Courtesy Keith Allison/Flickr)

The San Francisco Giants officially wrapped up their offseason spending spree on Monday, when the team signed left-handed relief pitcher Tony Watson to a two-year deal with an option.

According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the Giants front office structured the contract to keep the team under the competitive balance tax. That represents a best-case scenario for general manager Bobby Evans, who said after the Evan Longoria introductory press conference that he was hoping to add bullpen help without furthering their status as repeat tax offenders.

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The deal was reported on Friday and Watson arrived at Giants’ camp on Monday. The short-time Los Angeles Dodger told reporters how excited he was to face  the left-handed hitters of the NL West. A list that includes his former teammates Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, as well as Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies and Jake Lamb on the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I got a taste of it last year at the end of the year with certain lefties that are in these lineups that are damage guys that are premier hitters in the game and they just happen to be in our division,” Watson said, according to Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group. “You start looking around and you add Eric Hosmer down in San Diego too and it starts adding up so giving Boch as many options as you can from the left side is important I think.”

Watson, 32, started last season on the Pittsburgh Pirates and was traded to the World Series runners up  in July. He threw 66.2 innings with a 3.38 ERA (128 ERA+), with a 7.2 K/9. He was an All Star in 2014 and opened last season as the Bucs’ closer. He struggled in that role before ceding it to Felipe Rivero. Once he went to Los Angeles, he settled into his role and produced at a high level (which should be taken with a small-sample-size warning).

For the Giants, he offers manager Bruce Bochy another option for a left-handed specialist to complement Will Smith, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in May. He also has some friends in the clubhouse in the form of his former teammates in Pittsburgh.

Mark Melancon’s kids were excited about the news and Andrew McCutchen welcomed Watson in an enthusiastic tweet.

To make room for him on the roster, the Giants designated right-handed pitcher Joan Gregorio for assignment. Gregorio is a former top prospect who has flashed significant potential, but injuries and a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs derailed his 2017 season. Before it all fell apart, he had a 3.04 ERA and 61:35 K:BB in 74 innings for Triple-A Sacramento. Logging numbers like that in the Pacific Coast League are not easy.

Gregoria struggled in a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League and will now look for a new team as the Giants move forward with another proven veteran looking to extend his glory years.

Contact Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

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