Pirates pleased Melancon stayed put

Closer reports to camp after winter of trade rumors

February 18th, 2016

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Early on this offseason, it wasn't a guarantee that Mark Melancon would make it to Pirate City. The closer was a frequent subject of trade rumors, with many in the industry believing the Pirates would deal Melancon in his final year before free agency eligibility.

But Melancon reported to Spring Training along with the rest of the Pirates' pitchers and catchers this week, ready to return to his spot in the ninth inning. As for the trade talk? Melancon mostly ignored it.

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"It's out of my hands," he said. "Obviously I wanted to be here, but there was nothing I could do if they tried to trade me away."

The rumors were nothing new to Melancon. He's been through it all before. He was shipped from the Yankees to the Astros in 2010, from the Astros to the Red Sox in '11, and from the Red Sox to the Pirates in '12. Given those experiences, he didn't go out of his way to seek assurances from the club about his status.

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"I've been traded three other times, so I get how it works," he said.

Melancon and the Pirates agreed to a one-year, $9.65 million deal in January to avoid the arbitration process. At this point, that amounts to roughly one-tenth of the Pirates' projected Opening Day payroll. Barring an extension, Melancon will become a free agent after this season.

For all those reasons, Melancon appeared to be a logical trade chip despite his rare value and consistency over the past three seasons in Pittsburgh. But while fellow closers Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Ken Giles changed uniforms, Melancon remained a Pirate.

General manager Neal Huntington repeatedly stressed that the Bucs didn't have to trade their closer, who led the Majors with 51 saves last season. Their bullpen led the Majors with a 2.67 ERA. It still would have been a formidable group with Tony Watson closing out games.

But the Pirates are pleased to know they can count on Melancon in the ninth inning for another year.

"It's huge. We obviously had guys that could've probably done the job, but knowing that you have those guys and Melancon back as well, you can't ask for anything more," catcher Chris Stewart said. "Our starters could go five and give us the lead, and we feel like we have the confidence for the rest of those guys in the bullpen to shut the game down.

"It's a huge asset. We've seen what he's done in the past, and we don't expect anything different from him this year."