Mark Melancon might not command quite the deal Aroldis Chapman and his triple-digit fastball will in free agency this offseason, but he's unquestionably one of the three big pitchers available in the relief market.
Melancon, along with Chapman and Kenley Jansen, has a chance to exceed the record four-year, $50 million deal for a reliever that Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies in 2011. And as Hot Stove season gets underway, the interest in Melancon is starting to heat up.
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The Giants, for now at least, might be chief among the closer's suitors. After reportedly meeting with his representatives earlier in the week, the Giants were scheduled to bring in Melancon for an in-person meeting on Friday, according to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.
A San Francisco team official told Passan this week that, "We are getting one of the big closers."
Melancon certainly fits that bill. The 31-year-old right-hander was an All-Star for a second straight season in 2016, saving 47 combined games for the Pirates and Nationals with a 1.64 ERA. In four postseason appearances, including one save, he did not allow a run.
Since 2013, Melancon has a 1.80 ERA and 147 saves, has made three National League All-Star teams and led the Majors with 51 saves in '15. The Giants could desperately use that kind of consistent elite relief performance. They were unable to save a Major League-worst 30 games in '16, plus two more in the final two games of the NL Division Series against the Cubs. In addition, veteran relievers Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier López are free agents.
San Francisco is far from the only team expected to pursue Melancon, who will not cost the team he signs with a first-round Draft pick. Because Melancon was traded midseason in 2016, he was not eligible to receive the one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer from Washington. The same goes for Chapman. Jansen, however, was extended a qualifying offer, so if he signs with a team other than the Dodgers, that club would have to surrender its first-round pick as compensation.
The Nationals, for one, look like they will attempt to re-sign Melancon. They need a closer, and as MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman reported on Wednesday, they like the one they had. Per Heyman, Washington "would love him back." In late October, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the club would make a run at Melancon.
The Yankees are another potential landing spot. On Tuesday, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that New York planned to reach out to Melancon. The Yankees currently have Dellin Betances at the back of their bullpen, but they have the money to sign one or more of the top relief arms available if they want to recreate a dominant bullpen like they had in the first part of 2016, before they dealt Chapman and Andrew Miller to replenish their farm system. The New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand suggested on Thursday that the Yankees could try to make such a move.
Other teams could end up emerging as suitors for Melancon as free agency rolls on, like the Dodgers, if they are unable to re-sign Jansen. Melancon will certainly command significant interest, and whichever team lands him to close its games will probably pay him handsomely to do so.