After searching for a closer, the Washington Nationals finally found one as they traded for Pirates closer Mark Melancon
The Washington Nationals have been searching for the answer to their bullpen woes as of late. Today, it looks like they found that answer. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network was the first to report that the Washington Nationals acquired Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates:
It was thought that the Washington Nationals would have to give up one of their top prospects to land an elite closer. It turns out they ended up sending Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Fanrag Sports
This season, Melancon is 30-for-33 in saves, has a 1.51 ERA, and has struck out 38 batters to only nine walks in 45 games. Over the last few seasons, he has been one of the best closers in the National League. Dating back to 2013, he has 130 saves in 144 chances, including 51 saves a season ago. According to ESPN Stats and Info, he has the best ERA of any closer over that span (1.80).
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Melancon has had his own share of hiccups lately. He blew back-to-back saves on July 17 and July 19, one of which was because of a Daniel Murphy home run (July 17). But, Murphy’s home run was only the second home run allowed by the 31-year-old right-hander this season.
Even though Melancon is an elite closer, he is a free agent at the end of the year. While many speculated the Washington Nationals would have to give up one of their top prospects in a deal such as Lucas Giolito, Trea Turner, or Reynaldo Lopez. But, they avoided giving up any of those young players for a pitcher in his contract year.
As for Rivero, he had a 4.53 ERA in 47 games with the Washington Nationals this season. He will now be part of the bullpen for a contending team as the Pirates are three games back of a Wild Card spot. The 25-year-old left-hander does have a 1.32 ERA and has held opponents to a .225 batting average this month (nine games) after having a 10.64 ERA with opponents hitting .356 in June (11 games).
The other player in the deal, left-handed starting pitcher Taylor Hearn, was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in eight games with low-A Hagerstown this year. The 21-year-old was taken in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft and was the 27th ranked prospect in the farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.
So, what does this mean for the former closer, Jonathan Papelbon? According to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, the team has told Papelbon this news and he seems to be okay with it:
In the end, the Washington Nationals get themselves a strong closer without having to give up any of their top prospects. Right now, this looks like a great deal made by Mike Rizzo. Stay tuned to District On Deck for more reaction to this trade.