Tha Sports Junkies 101

Mark Melancon Traded to the Nationals

Golden Blades/Via


Pirates send Mark Melancon to Washington in Three-Player Deal.

The Washington Nationals have acquired Pirates’ closer Mark Melancon for pitchers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.  Washington was in on the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes last week, but ultimately were not able to land the flame-throwing closer.  Melancon, who will be a free agent following the season, is an excellent acquisition for the Nationals.

Since 2014, Mark Melancon leads baseball with 114 saves including 30 thus far in 2016.  In four seasons with Pittsburgh, Melancon posted a 1.80 earned run average and was named as an all-star three times.  The Nationals will move Melancon to the closer’s role, where he will replace Jonathan Papelbon.  In 35 appearances this season, Papelbon has been very ineffective.  According to RotoGrinders, he has the second-worst WHIP among all closers in the league.  Papelbon’s 4.41 ERA is another measure that shows his inefficiency.  Although the Nationals’ bullpen has been very reliable in 2016, the closer’s role needed to be upgraded.

MLB Network Insider Joel Sherman did bring up an intriguing point about the trade:

The former Red Sox closer has had issues with teammates in the past.  The image of Papelbon choking 2015 N.L. MVP Bryce Harper is still pretty clear in many people’s minds.  On paper, it seems like the Nationals are improving by slotting Melancon in at closer.  However, Papelbon’s attitude could cause unneeded tension within the clubhouse, which could eventually result in a lack of chemistry on the field.  It will be interesting to see how the six-time all-star reacts to his move to the 8th inning.

The Pirates did get some solid pieces in return for their longtime closer.  Felipe Rivero has some legitimate potential to be a shutdown reliever in his own right.  In 2015, Rivero pitched to the tune of a 2.79 ERA with 43 strikeouts in less than 50 innings.  The 25 year-old left-hander has improved his strikeout numbers in 2016, but his ERA has shot up to 4.53.  Rivero has a nice package of pitches including a high 90’s fastball and a sweeping slider that is extremely effective against left-handed hitters.  Rivero is not set to become a free agent until 2022, so expect him to be a valuable asset to the Pirates for years to come.

Washington also sent 21-year old southpaw pitcher Taylor Hearn to Pittsburgh for Melancon.  The Nationals have been using Hearn as a starter in 2016, but he is probably better suited as a relief pitcher.  Hearn has touched 99 MPH with his fastball that generates a ton of late movement.  The 5th-round draft choice also has a slider with devastating potential if he dedicates more time to develop it.  Since he was called up to Single-A Hagerstown this season, Hearn has 31 stikeouts in 22 and 2/3 innings.  His assortment of pitches should make him well-equipped to pitch out of the Pirates’ bullpen in a few years.