Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Watson Ready to Dig Deeper If He Becomes Team's Closer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Watson Ready to Dig Deeper If He Becomes Team's Closer

Article excerpt

If Tony Watson hadn't already put together what a possible trade involving Mark Melancon would mean for him, the fans at PirateFest reminded him.

"A couple people asked how it feels to be the closer," their left-handed setup man said Saturday, referring to the team's question-and-answer session with fans. "I'm not the closer."

The Pirates entered this offseason either actively trying to trade or listening to offers for the arbitration-eligible players who will reach free agency after the 2016 season. Two already are gone - Pedro Alvarez, whom they non-tendered, and Neil Walker, whom they sent to the New York Mets. Two more, catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, are currently the starting and backup catcher, integral to the 2016 roster.

That leaves Melancon, who saved a major league-high 51 games this past season. He might earn as much as $10 million, according to projections by MLB Trade Rumors, in his final year of arbitration.

"We've never had to trade Mark," said general manager Neal Huntington, who noted that shedding Charlie Morton's $8 million salary had no effect on Melancon. "It's all been, if we're better with him with us or if we think it's a better move for the organization to move him elsewhere, and that still applies. . We like the thought of Mark Melancon and Watson anchoring the back end of that bullpen.

"At the same time, if somebody steps up and gives us a return that's sufficient enough to motivate us to get a little bit uncomfortable, then we get a little bit uncomfortable."

Trading one of the game's best closers seems strange on the surface, especially for a team that won 98 games in 2015 and plays in a tough division. Were the Pirates to do so, they would want to use the move to fill another hole on the club, possibly by acquiring a starting pitcher or a quality left-handed first baseman to platoon with Michael Morse. …

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