Mark Melancon

The Pittsburgh Pirates have starting pitching problems, but their bullpen has a player like Mark Melancon that’s getting a lot of interest with trade talks becoming more popular in this time of year. The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets and Houston Astros would love to get their hands on the closer.

The Pirates are at 37-39, with their rotation woes mostly to blame for their disappointing season thus far, nowhere near their playoff form of 2015. Melancon has been able to play well despite the losses, with a 1.48 ERA and 22 saves in 33 appearances, blowing a lead just once. His strikeout-per-walk ratio is down to 3, but he’s doing well in his post All-Star season, and just like last year, is on pace to get someone to make some Cy Young votes in his name.

Melancon might not be a closer option for all the teams looking at him. In any case, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, and is owed about half of his $9.6 million contract for 2016, making him more and more valuable to contenders as we approach the zenith of summer. He’s fourth in the majors this season in saves and 6th in games finished. The Mets have the leader in both categories, but might be thinking about offering Jeurys Familia some help in that matter.

The Giants and the Red Sox seem to have taken a step back in terms of bullpen quality this season. The Giants haven’t let that stop them from leading the NL West, but the Red Sox have the Orioles as their rivals (the Blue Jays too) in the AL East, and right now, part of the reason they’re trailing is their inability to match up with Baltimore’s relief crew. To complement maybe the best hitting group in Baseball, adding someone like Melancon is necessary.

The 31-year old is in his fourth season with the Pirates. He played in the past for both Boston and Houston, starting his career with the Yankees. He led the majors in saves last season (51), and although his K-to-BB ratio had dropped over the last four years significantly, he’s still a very good closer, with a 2.02 ERA and 7.3 strikes per nine innings since the beginning of the 2015 season.

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