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Washington Nationals Rumors: Nats expected to “go hard” for closer Mark Melancon

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Mark Melancon will test the free agent market, but will he end up back with the Washington Nationals next season after the Nats acquired him at the non-waiver trade deadline in July?

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about the possibility of bringing Mark Melancon back in 2017 shortly after acquiring the veteran right-hander from the Pittsburgh Pirates in late July.

Rizzo did, however, acknowledge that there was no reason for Melancon, who is set to hit free agency after the World Series, to sign before he sees what the market is this winter.

In an interview on 106.7 the FAN after the trade, Rizzo said that, “nobody has talked about [Melancon] just being a rental.

“We don’t know what’s down the road. Looking at it from the player’s standpoint, he’s a month away from being a free agent.

“There’s no rationale and reason for him to sign a contract or an extension now.

“He’ll take it to free agency and then we’ll be in the market place with the rest of the teams that are looking for a closer.”

“There are several closers on the market next year,” Rizzo said. “We’ve paid for closers in the past.

“We’ve paid a lot of money for closers in the past and we’ll take a look at the landscape and where we can implement our dollars in the best way and the way to allocate our dollars in the best way and we’ll see where it goes.”

Melancon saved 17 of 18 opportunities with the Nationals, posting a 1.82 ERA, a 2.07 FIP, three walks (0.91 BB/9) and 27 Ks (8.19 K/9) in 29 23 innings pitched for the NL East champs.

He finished the season with 47 saves, a 1.64 ERA, a 2.42 FIP, 12 walks (1.51 BB/9), 65 Ks (8.20 K/9) and a .202/.241/.271 line against in 71 13 IP.

Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo wrote this weekend that Melancon, who finished second in the NL in saves this season, could end up in “an Andrew Miller-type role.”:

“Melancon has pitched all of the back-end innings. Of course, you’d have to pay him closer money. Don’t kid yourself, one reason Miller accepts his role is because he earns closer money. At some point we’re going to see baseball adjust to this hybrid reliever and pay them closer money and beyond. The hybrid reliever may become the highest-paid one. Melancon should derive plenty of interest either as a closer or in this hybrid role.”

“This is a guy a lot of teams, including the Red Sox, should have an interest in,” Cafardo added. “The Nationals are expected to go hard for him.”

Melancon, in an MLB Network Radio interview this week, told the show’s hosts that he was heading into a market that he thought recognized the value of a deep bullpen.

“I think we’ve seen that the last 2-3-4 years, seeing how important the bullpens have been and how you work backwards and make the game shorter,” Melancon said.

“Starting pitching, those guys have been getting taken out of the game sooner and that’s why the bullpens have been more important.

“I think it’s almost — the highlight on the closing role and the bullpens in general is maybe two or three years late.”

Melancon, who’ll turn 32 in March, said he was looking forward to the opportunity to test the free agent market and decide where he’ll be playing next season and beyond.

“I’ve been home for like four days and I’m starting to work out next week,” Melancon explained, “so I’m just doing the same thing I’ve done. Obviously it’s going to be a little bit different. It’s kind of — you’ve been trying to get to this point for a long time and I’m excited for it, but until those offers are on the table and the decisions need to be made, I can’t really do a whole lot.

“So I’m just waiting for those times and we’ll go from there. It will be a family decision and it will be fun.”