With Mark Melancon’s future still cloudy, what teams make the best potential trade destinations for the reliever?
This offseason has been slow-moving for Major League Baseball, but not for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team moved Neil Walker and Charlie Morton, declined to offer a contract to Pedro Alvarez, and added Jon Niese, Jason Rogers, Juan Nicasio, and John Jaso, among others. But many don’t feel a busy offseason is over yet for the Pirates.
One of the more anticipated moves this winter was the expected trading away of Mark Melancon, which hasn’t happened (yet). Neal Huntington is on the record as saying the team doesn’t need to move Melancon, and they’re comfortable going into next season with their all-star closer. But the previous trades of Joel Hanrahan and Jason Grilli, coupled with the lack of money that the team traditionally puts into the bullpen, added fuel to the fire that the team could trade Melancon after a string of three fantastic seasons. He’s also heading into his final year of arbitration and could make upwards of $10 million next season, which the team could view as too much to pay for a closer.
If I’m a betting man, the Pirates still find a way to move Melancon and convert Tony Watson into the permanent closer. While many closers and relievers have been signed and traded this offseason, there are still a few teams out there that could use an impact bullpen arm. Here are five teams that could be good fits for Mark Melancon, in no particular order.
1. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox already made a splash this offseason when they added Craig Kimbrel from the Padres, who figures to be either the closer or the set-up man opposite Koji Uehara. Uehara may be done in Boston after next year with the expiration of his contract after 2016, where Kimbrel could then (at the latest) take over as the full-time closer.
But if they already have these two established closers, why would they want to add another in Melancon? Enter the New York Yankees. The Yankees currently have a three-headed monster in Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman, three of the best relief men in all of baseball anchoring their bullpen. Maybe the Red Sox would be interested in added a third dynamic bullpen arm to their own back-end to rival that of the Yankees. Melancon also previously spent time with the Red Sox in 2012 before becoming a Pirate. Is the bullpen a pressing need for the Red Sox? No. But they may be pushed to add to it with the addition of Chapman by the Yankees.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays almost seem like too perfect of a fit for Melancon. Toronto already has a dynamic offense at just about every offensive position, and the team seems content with its starting staff at the moment. But the bullpen might need depth. Roberto Osuna spent the most time at closer last season for the Blue Jays, and pitched to a respectable 2.58 ERA. But Osuna is only 20 years old and the team doesn’t have much depth around him. Maybe the Blue Jays would be interested in adding a proven veteran like Melancon to take over the closer duties and slide Osuna into the set-up role. Toronto has World Series aspirations with its high-flying offense, and a proven closer may be the most vital missing piece to finishing that puzzle.
3. New York Mets
Another team with World Series aspirations, the Mets clearly have a great closer in Jeurys Familia. Wouldn’t having Melancon passing the ball to Familia be a fantastic duo? The Mets faced the Royals in the World Series last year, a team that propelled itself to back-to-back championship appearances on the back of one of the best bullpens in baseball. Thus, the Mets know firsthand how important a great bullpen can be. Melancon is much better than Jerry Blevins, Jenrry Mejia, or Addison Reed, a few of the other pieces of the Mets’ bullpen. Plus, the Mets and Pirates have been good trade partners in the past with the Walker for Niese deal and the trade for Marlon Byrd a couple years back. It could make sense.
4. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were the talk of the offseason before last season with all of the moves they made. But the team fell flat, stumbling to a .500 record in what was a disappointing season in 2015. But they’re hoping for a quick turnaround in 2016, as evidenced by the addition of Todd Frazier to compliment their infield. They have David Robertson under contract for the next three seasons as their high-paid closer, but Robertson had a down year in 2015 after multiple good seasons with the Yankees. They also have former Pirate Zach Duke, who is a left-handed specialist and a setup man, and Jake Petricka, who also saw some eighth-inning duties last season.
But all three of those arms had ERAs over three, which isn’t ideal for a playoff-contending bullpen. A Melancon trade to the White Sox would depend on if the White Sox saw themselves as legitimate contenders in 2016, or if they thought they wanted to re-sign Melancon after 2016. It’d be a long shot, but it would make sense for a team trying to turn around quickly.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
For a team with a lefty-heavy starting rotation, the Dodgers have a righty-heavy bullpen. That led them to aggressively pursue and nearly trade for Aroldis Chapman at the beginning of the offseason. But since that trade fell through, the Dodgers have failed to address their bullpen, which might be the team’s biggest weakness left. Kenley Jansen is the team’s current closer, and is a righty like Melancon. But after Jansen, who is the team’s setup man? That role is up in the air at the moment. Last season, the Dodgers had five pitchers register double-digit holds, and 11 total pitchers register t least one hold. Melancon could come right in and lock down that eighth-inning role that was a revolving door for the Dodgers last season.
Los Angeles has the money and the assets in their farm system to make any deal happen that they want to. Teams like the Dodgers with money and assets to play with often add as many dynamic pieces as they can to their roster. They’re the type of team that could (and should) try to set up a super-bullpen to rival those of the Yankees and the Royals. They could trade for Melancon and still look for a lefty relief arm as well.
It would be interesting if the Pirates decided to stick with Mark Melancon next season instead of trading him. It would also be uncharacteristic to say the least. Maybe they’re waiting out the slow offseason for the perfect deal to come their way. If they do decide to eventually move him, any of the above teams would make sense as fits for the All-Star closer.
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