There are only a few spots locked in for the 2020 bullpen.
As it stands, 35-year-old lefty Tony Watson may be the incumbent closer, simply by virtue of being the elder statesman.
However, last year was arguably the toughest of his career, as he failed to finish the season strong and ultimately posted career-worst numbers with a 4.17 ERA, 4.81 FIP, and 1.5 HR/9 in 60 appearances.
His strikeout rate also fell from 9.8 K/9 in 2018 to just 6.8 K/9 last season. A deeper dive suggests hitters are making harder contact against him and his slider was a much weaker secondary pitch than it was in previous seasons. On the bright side, his velocity numbers are still in line with what they have been since 2016. He’s entering a contract year with free agency waiting after 2020.
Moving further down the line, 27-year-old right-hander Trevor Gott had an extremely encouraging season in 2019 and cemented his spot in the 2020 bullpen. Acquired via waivers from the Washington Nationals and controllable through 2023, Gott sported a 3.12 FIP and 1.10 WHIP through a career high 52.2 innings, albeit with a 4.44 ERA.
Rookie right-hander Sam Coonrod only transitioned to the bullpen on a full-time basis last year. Prior to that, he was injured for the majority of 2018 and a starter before that in the minors. He had a solid 3.58 ERA in 2019, albeit paired with a decidedly less solid 5.24 FIP.
The explanation? Underwhelming strikeout (6.5 K/9) and walk (4.9 BB/9) rates, combined with an unsustainably low .222 BABIP.
Nonetheless, he is controllable for the next six seasons and there is no reason to believe he won’t be given every chance to succeed further and work on improving at the MLB level.
That’s three slots accounted for in the bullpen. Who else among the incumbent options could earn a roster spot this spring?