2016 with Pittsburgh
Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn
I was a big fan of this trade at the time. Melancon was one of the best relievers in the game and continued to dominate once he joined the Nationals (1.82 ERA in 29.1 innings). Mike Rizzo attempted to re-sign Melancon after the year, but he turned out to be just a rental player.
Rivero was a quality pitcher for the Nats, but not someone who would hold up a deal for a player of Melancon’s caliber. Now, the Nationals would kill to have Rivero.
Their bullpen has been a dumpster fire all season, and even with the Sean Doolittle/Ryan Madson trade, Rizzo would prefer to have an additional arm back there. Rivero sports a sterling 0.68 ERA and 0.70 WHIP with Pittsburgh this season, and took over the closer role midseason without a hitch.
It certainly hurts to lose an electric, young reliever for less than 30 innings of Melancon. But I respect Rizzo’s decision. He showed he was willing to push all of his chips in for a World Series run. Rivero unexpectedly blossomed while Melancon departed, but that does not mean the Washington Nationals wouldn’t do the same trade again. You can’t hold the line between contention and future assets forever; at some point, you just have to go for it. Teams that try to straddle both sides never reach their best selves, and ultimately fall short of the ultimate goal. Just look at the Boston Celtics. If you try to have it all, you will probably end up with nothing.
Mike Rizzo and the Nationals know the window won’t be open forever. They went for it last year. We’ll see if they go for it again this season.