It goes without saying that Tony Watson needs removed from the closer role and probably needs the Daniel Hudson treatment of being sent to the middle inning for a while or even the Antonio Bastardo treatment of disappearing to the DL. However that is not what I am writing this little blurb about.
Watching Watson on the mound last night made me sad. Of course sad that the Pirates blew a late lead but just in general a sadness for Tony Watson. Watson was a tremendous pitcher for the Pirates to an extent where I think most fans don’t understand just how good he really was. I’m not going to bore you with stats but from 2013-2015 Watson was pitching at a level of one of the top 10 relievers in all of baseball. He was that good. Things started to fall apart a bit last year and have obviously continued this year.
The success of the Pirates is correctly largely accredited to guys like Andrew McCutchen, AJ Burnett and Russell Martin but it was the back end of the bullpen that really solidified those clubs as legitimate contenders. Seeing Watson fail is as hard for me as it is watching McCutchen struggle. It is just difficult to watch these once great talents play like shells of their former selves.
The Pirates must do what is best for the longevity of the club which is letting Watson and McCutchen both go in the near future but even though I fully agree those are moves that need to be made I’m not going to be happy about them. As for now Watson at a minimum needs removed from the closer role.
As for how I’d structure the bullpen. I’d move Nicasio to closer and promote Hudson back to a set up role where he and Rivero would be used in the 7th and 8th innings. Watson would take on Bastardo’s old role of middle inning lefty. Santana or Schugel should come up to replace Marinez. The final spot I would give to Kuhl once Taillon returns.
This gives the team LeBlanc and Kuhl for long relief (though I’d like to see Kuhl get a few shorter outings as well). Watson and Santana/Schugel for middle relief. Hudson and Rivero for late inning relief and Nicasio closing things up (perhaps let him try a few 4-6 out saves).