Pittsburgh Pirates trade Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals
Today is a national holiday of sorts for baseball fans. It’s non-waiver deadline day, but before we get to today’s activities we need to catch up on a key trade that happened over the weekend. The Washington Nationals bolstered their bullpen when they traded Taylor Hearn and Felipe Rivero to the Pittsburgh Pirates for closer Mark Melancon.
Why the Nationals make this trade
The Nationals have been after late inning relief help for a while now. Jonathan Papelbon has been a decent closer for them since they acquired him, but Melancon represents an upgrade. Melancon burst on the scene last year when he saved 51 games for the Bucs, but he has arguably been better this season. In fact, since he failed miserably with the Red Sox in 2012 he has sported an ERA under 2.00 in three out of the four seasons. This season, he has 30 saves already and a sparkling 1.51 ERA. Clearly, he is superior to Papelbon.
Melancon is 30 for 33 in save opportunities this season. That puts him in the upper echelon of closers in baseball despite the fact that he doesn’t necessarily have elite stuff. In his last four seasons, he is 130 for 144 in save opportunities. That is close to a 90 percent. By contrast, Papelbon has a 4.41 ERA this season and has only 19 saves in 22 opportunities. Since 2013, he has 111 saves in 127 opportunities. So, Melancon has been demonstrably better.
As for Hearn and Rivero, they were good prospects, but it certainly won’t break the farm system for the Nationals. Hearn was toiling in A ball for the Nationals and was putting up good numbers in relief in his first full season of professional baseball. As for Rivero, he has already made it up to the big leagues and looked good in 2015, but he has struggled this season to a 4.53 ERA with the Nationals in 47 games. Obviously, it’s an upgrade for the Nationals pen.
Why the Pirates make this trade
Melancon is due to be a free agent after the season. He is already signed for 9.65 million this season and is due a significant raise. The Pirates are still a mid-market team and they aren’t the kind of team that can afford to pay a closer eight figures per season. They have very talented relievers in Tony Watson and Neftali Feliz. So, they should be in decent shape until at least the end of the season.
Rivero is certainly nothing more than a middle reliever, but they have hopes for Hearn. He immediately was rated as the 28th best prospect in the Pirates system. That’s not a bad return for a player that would have likely been gone within two months anyway. Besides, they did save approximately four million dollars because of the deal.
What this deal means for you
We get the continuing game of musical chairs for closers. Melancon’s presence in Washington means that Jonathan Papelbon is now useless unless your league counts holds. If Neftali Feliz is available he would be worth an add. He is likely to get the save opportunities since has experience as a closer. He and Watson may share save opportunities in the meantime as a natural lefty/righty platoon might be in the works.