Washington Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo found the closer he was after when he sent left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league left-hander Taylor Hearn to the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-handed closer Mark Melancon this weekend.
Melancon, 31, recorded 30 saves and posted a 1.51 ERA, a 2.65 FIP, a 0.96 WHIP, nine walks (1.94 BB/9), 38 Ks (8.21 K/9) and a .203/.252/.265 line against in 41 ⅔ innings pitched for the Pirates before the deal.
He’s converted 92.7% of his save opportunities since 2014, the third-best percentage among major league closers over that stretch, behind only new Chicago Cubs’ closer Aroldis Chapman (92.8%) and the Baltimore Orioles’ closer Zach Britton (92.9%).
"He’s a know commodity," Rizzo told reporters after the trade was completed.
"He’s a successful late-inning reliever and a guy that we have followed for years, good make-up guy, battle-tested and one of the elite relievers in the game."
Asked about his reluctance to trade the sort of prospects it took for the Chicago Cubs to land Chapman last week, after the Nationals had reportedly pursued the hard-throwing left-hander, Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies that it wasn’t something he could justifty for, "two months of a rental in a position that we could upgrade," but, he added, "we're still one of the top bullpens in the league."
"They got themselves one of the elite closers in the game, but they gave up a king's ransom to get him and that's part of their plan."
He was, however, okay with what it took to get Melancon, who’s due to hit free agency this winter as well.
"I just think that his resume and his performance-level dictated that he was a guy to really go after and attack," Rizzo explained.
"Though we’ll only have him for a short time this year, we felt that the situation and the deal that we had to make to acquire such an accomplished reliever was worth it."
With Jonathan Papelbon struggling in the closer’s role and the asking price for some of the other available options exorbitant, Rizzo still managed to find a closer.
"There are not a lot of relievers at his level, so it’s supply and demand and the supply for those type of guys — there’s not a lot of them — so there is a lot of competition for players and you have to do a deal that makes sense for you."
Rizzo was asked about replacing Papelbon at the back of the bullpen and how he thought the veteran reliever would react?
"We talked to Pap," he explained. "With the success he has and the resume he has, he’s earned the respect that comes with being in the league [and being] successful as long as he has and I felt that to bring him in the loop was important and to sit down — I wanted to talk to him and he took it very well.
"He’s all about winning, that’s what he wants to do, that’s what he told us and he’s been a great teammate here in the clubhouse and a guy that the players respect."
Having found the reliever they were after, are the Nationals done?
With a little over four hours left before the non-waiver trade deadline, there’s not a lot of chatter out there tying the Nationals to anyone else.
Will they try to add a bat? Is Rizzo done trying to upgrade the bullpen?
We’ll be tracking Twitter and gathering any/all rumors throughout the day. You can follow our Twitter feed below where we’ll share anything we see.
Do the Nationals stand pat and hope for offensive revivals from the likes of Ben Revere, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman?
Is the bullpen set as it is now?
What will Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office do before this afternoon?
It’s fast approaching 4:00 PM EDT...