Pittsburgh Pirates: Could the Bucs Actually Bring Back Melancon?

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Mark Melancon there was a lot of concern on who would close out games.  Many figured it be Tony Watson, but he has struggled in that role.  So many are wondering if the Pirates will look to bring back Mark Melancon and there are rumors that it could happen.

Mark Melancon is arguably the Pittsburgh Pirates best closing pitcher in history.  In the 2015 season, the now Washington National, recorded 51 saves.  He not only lead the league in saves in 2015, but he also set a Pittsburgh Pirate team record.  Coming into the 2016 season, everyone knew that if the Pirates could get to the ninth they would be raising the Jolly Roger.  Melancon did not disappoint.  He was just as dominant for the Bucs this year.  The former closer appeared in 45 games for the Pirates, recording a one and one record with an outstanding eared run average of 1.51.  Because of those strong numbers he was able to rack up 30 saves before being dealt to the Nationals.

Now the Pittsburgh Pirates got a good return from the Nationals on Mark the Shark.  They received young, hard-throwing Felipe Rivero.  Rivero has been very good for the Pirates outside of two outings.  They also received prospect Taylor Hearn who looks to have a big time arm and projects to be a late inning reliever, if he does not make it as a starter.  It is hard to argue against the trade.  The Pirates had a late inning reliever while sitting on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  This deadline’s market was especially high for closers.  There was a lot of team trying to acquire back-end of the bullpen help.  The Pirates were in a position to improve the team going forward, while acquiring a piece to help now also.

Recently fans have worried about who will close games next year.  With Tony Watson seeming to be not comfortable in the ninth inning, and Felipe Rivero being prone to implosion like innings (not that he has not done a good job), the Pirates may need to bring in another option.  Many fans want that to be Melancon, in fact this was brought up hours after trading him even.

Recently Travis Sawchik of Triblive.com wrote how the Pittsburgh Pirates may be better off giving Melancon a deal rather than heavily investing in Ivan Nova.  Sawchik wrote in the article:

"For the Pirates, perhaps a reunion with Melancon makes more sense than bringing back Nova."

In a sense he is right.  This year the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has not been as strong as the last few seasons.  After trading Melancon the bullpen woes continued.  With so many young, promising pitchers progressing and cheap contracts, it could be feasible to invest some bigger money into the bullpen.

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What is Melancon worth this off-season? First off he will be the third closer on a lot of team’s lists.  Ahead of him with be younger power arms like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, who will have more teams interested and earn more money.  They will earn more money simply because they have the glamorous numbers of the radar gun and strikeouts. Melancon who has been just as good as them if not better, will earn less simply because he is older, and throws in the lower 90s.  Although that stinks for him, this could help the Pittsburgh Pirates if they want to resign him.

Estimating his Worth

Typically one can see a correlation between free agent contracts and their wins against replacement or WAR.  On the open market it is often common to see a player get 6-7 million dollars for every 1.0 WAR.  If this remains constant this off-season Melancon should receive anywhere from 10-11 million dollars.  This is based on his WAR of 1.7 this season as a Pirate, so he will have a higher WAR when the season ends.  Looking at the Pirates trend they likely will not want to lock up a closer, who throws 70 innings a season, to a long-term deal at 10-11 million dollars a year.  However, it could help that he is not the prime option on the market, and the Pirates could offer him multi-year at closer to nine million annually.

Is there a chance that the Pittsburgh Pirates resign Mark Melancon this off-season?

I am not totally sure.  It would be very unlike the Pittsburgh Pirates to invest long-term in a reliever.  They simply have never done that, as they have traded away Joel Hannrahan, Jason Grilli, and Mark Melancon in their walk years.

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However, the Pirates are in a different spot this off-season.  They should have plenty of payroll flexibility with so much young, cheap talent on the team.  Also, with a weak starting pitching market, they will not over pay a pitcher who is not worth over paying.  I mean they will not even pay pitchers who have earned their money, let alone ones who have struggled in their careers (which is the bulk of the market this year). If the Pirates do resign Melancon it will not be cheap. They may be able to get a bargain on him because of the players ahead of him on the market.  If that is the case, then no doubt bring back the former Pirate all-star to be one again.