After six minor league seasons (plus the canceled 2020 minor league season), right-hander Spenser Watkins finally broke through to the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in the 2021 season. He came up mostly through the Detroit Tigers’ system as a starting pitcher but he departed on a minor-league deal for Baltimore in 2021. He finally made his big league debut that season, making 16 appearances (10 starts) for the 110-loss Orioles. He stuck around even more the next year, making 20 starts and serving as a fringe-backend rotation arm. A mid-2023 trade to the Houston Astros preceded a DFA that would pave the way to Oakland.
With the season all but officially over, the club decided to start trying to claim arms from other teams to hopefully find a diamond in the rough. That strategy led them to claiming Watkins off waivers from the Astros on August 8th, and Watkins would make his debut for the A’s just one week later in a start against the St. Louis Cardinals.
What were the expectations?
With the starting rotation in shambles for long stretches of the season the club wanted to get a look at as many arms as they could. The club was hoping they would strike gold and one of the dozen would pan out. Watkins was the latest in that line of pitchers and was given a chance to impress and earn a second start for the club.
Watkins only made one appearance for the A’s at the major league level in 2023. That one appearance began just about as awful as a start could go as the Cardinals put four runs (including two home runs) in the first inning. He had a couple strikeouts, including Paul Goldschmidt, but overall it was a subpar start from Watkins and led to a 6-2 loss.
What went right? What went wrong?
Not a whole lot went right in 2023 for Watkins. Coming off a season where he made 20 major-league starts, Watkins was stuck in Triple-A all season, although he sure didn’t do much to help himself. He didn’t crack Baltimore’s Opening Day roster and they later cut bait on the right-hander after just six starts in Triple-A. His time in Houston’s minor league system went even worse and another DFA had him looking for a home yet again. Oakland provided that landing spot and even gave him a start in the majors but Watkins couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
Watkins elected free agency on October 4th, and that’s where he is to this day. There is always a chance the Athletics could bring him back but there is just as good a chance he peruses around and finds a better spot for him. Oakland could use all the arms they could get but there might not be much left to unlock in the 31-year old Watkins.