Pirates Defeat Tony Watson at Arbitration Hearing

Pittsburgh Pirates closer Tony Watson lost his arbitration hearing to the Pirates on Thursday, meaning he will make $5.6 million this upcoming season.

Watson was seeking a $6 million contract after stepping up big for the Pirates following the Mark Melancon trade, but arbitrators Jeanne Wood, Steven Wolf, and Gil Vernon decided to side with the Pirates after hearing both arguments from Watson’s representation and the Pirates.

“I thought it was a good experience. It wasn’t as bad as what I thought it could have been,” Watson said, according to MLB.com. “It’s good to go through. It’s something I’ll never be able to do again. To go through it and fight for myself, I thought it was worth it.”

2017 will be Watson’s final year of arbitration before he is set to hit the open market next off-season in free agency. Based on the recent salaries that have been shelled out to relievers, especially left-handed ones, the Pirates will likely make it a priority to extend Watson’s contract behind this season.

In 2016, Watson made $3.4 million coming off of his second straight season with an earned run average under 2.00. Watson’s earned run average spiked up to 3.06 this season, but a lot of that can be attributed to the increased demands the closer role brought Watson from July until October.

The 31-year-old Watson, who will turn 32 during the season, also struck out 58 batters over 67.2 innings of work in 2016, using his change-up a lot to strike hitters out. 24.7% of Watson’s pitches were the change-up, while 66.5% of them were fastballs, and the other 8.8% came via sliders.

Watson will again be Pittsburgh’s closer in 2017, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will have to do some sorting out in his bullpen during Spring Training to see who will serve as Watson’s set-up man with Neftali Feliz with the Brewers as their closer now.

Antonio Bastardo is one option for Hurdle, while a right-handed option to switch things up on opposing hitters could end up being Jared Hughes. Another name to keep your eyes on in the Pirates bullpen is Felipe Rivero, who’s average fastball clocked out at 96.3 miles per hour last season.

For his career, Watson has a 2.56 earned run average, 15 saves, and 345 strikeouts scattered across 386.1 innings of work.

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