The San Francisco Giants Needed a Closer Like Mark Melancon
The San Francisco Giants made the first big move at this year's MLB Winter Meetings just outside Washington, DC, and shored up a major problem area in doing so.
Mark Melancon, the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates reliever who was traded to the Washington Nationals last season, has signed a four-year, $62 million contract to close games out for the Giants. That breaks a record, as Jonathan Papelbon's $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2011 season was the previous high.
The 31-year-old right-hander went 2-2 with a 1.64 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with the Pirates and Nats last year. He led the league in games finished (67) and had 47 saves for the two clubs, tied with Kenley Jansen and Zach Britton for second-most in baseball. The New York Mets' Jeurys Familia led baseball with 51. Melancon also has more saves (131) than anyone over the last three years, four more than Jansen.
Ironically, Jansen is also a pending free agent, as is Aroldis Chapman. Both are expected to get deals exceeding Melancon's, so that record for richest relief pitcher contract in baseball history won't be his for long.
Melancon is not an elite strikeout arm, averaging 8.20 K/9, 85th among qualified relief pitchers in 2016, but his WHIP of 0.90 was 9th-best, while his 1.64 ERA was 6th-best. He was solid after getting traded to Washington, posting a 1.82 ERA in 30 games and securing 17 saves during his brief stay in the nation's capital.
He doesn't blow anyone away, but my goodness this curveball.
Closer was certainly an area the Giants needed to lock down after last year's bullpen debacle. No team blew more saves than the Giants' 30, and lost 9 games in which they took a lead into the 9th inning.
Nine of those blown saves came in September, with a devastating one ending their season in the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs.
That was a three-run lead they blew in the bottom of the ninth against the eventual world champs. The 'pen was clearly a problem, and it was one the Giants spent a lot of money to fix.
They didn't get the biggest name in the market, they got the third-biggest. Still, that is a gigantic upgrade over what was there before.