Washington Nationals Trade Target: Mark Melancon

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With the Washington Nationals needing help in their bullpen, it will be Mike Rizzo’s job to try to re-tool a group that could see some losses. It remains to be seen if Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen will be with the Nats in February. If they somehow find a way to get rid of Papelbon, one name to keep an eye on is the current closer of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mark Melancon.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network, the Pirates “have been fielding offers on all seven of their players who have a year to go before free agency.” Melancon is currently one of those players that are arbitration eligible and are set to hit free agency next winter.

Since coming to the Pirates in 2012 from the Boston Red Sox in a trade involving Joel Hanrahan, the 30-year-old right-hander has 100 saves in his three seasons in 111 opportunities. The two-time All-Star in 2013 and 2015 appeared in 78 game this past season, had a 2.23 ERA, saved 51 games in 53 chances, and won the Trevor Hoffman Award (Best Reliever in the National League).

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When you look at Melancon’s home/road splits from this past season, he was dominant on the road. He converted on all 25 of his save chances away from PNC Park and had a ERA of 1.56 in 35 games (2.79,ERA, 26-for-28 in saves at home).

This past season, Melancon has relied more on his cut fastball. According to Fangraphs, he threw his cutter about 65% of the time (average velocity of about 91 miles per hour). In addition to the cutter, he has a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup in his arsenal.

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It is unknown if the Nationals are one of those teams that have sent a trade offer for Melancon, but with closers such as Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman on the trading block, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nats contacted the Pirattes about a deal. However, as Heyman also pointed out in his Inside Baseball column yesterday, it sounds like the Nats will have a tough time finding a suitor for Papelbon:

"“Three GMs of teams seeking a closer were asked if they’d consider Jonathan Papelbon, and the responses were “No,” “Pass,” and uproarious laughter, which was also taken as a no.” (h/t Heyman, CBS Sports)"

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According to MLB Trade Rumors, Melancon is projected to make $10 million in arbitration this winter, which is $1 million less than what Papelbon is going to make in 2016. While Melancon’s ERA has gone up each of the last three seasons, he has appeared in 70 or more games in four of the last five years. If the Nationals are looking for some consistency in their bullpen, Melancon would be a good fit. However, it might be a tough effort to make a trade for him until we find out for sure what Papelbon and Storen’s status is for 2016.

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