As the Nationals continue their effort to add a quality reliever at the back of the pen, the club is “focused” on striking a deal to add Pirates righty Mark Melancon, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. The Nats have also been tied to hurlers such as Andrew Miller of the Yankees and Wade Davis of the Royals, but the asking prices have been incredibly steep.
That’s not to say that the Bucs will let Melancon go lightly. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports that the team would be looking for a deal along the lines of the Aroldis Chapman pact. The Cubs parted with one high-quality prospect in Gleyber Torres as well as a useful major-league arm in Adam Warren and two other nice prospect pieces to add the flamethrowing lefty.
It’s easy to see the analogy between the Cubs-Yankees agreement and what Pittsburgh would like to accomplish. They, too, reportedly hope to receive a useful set-up option in return — giving the team a player to slot in front of Tony Watson and Neftali Feliz while continuing to compete in 2016. And the Bucs obviously would only be motivated to make that kind of exchange if they can get a truly enticing prospect out of the bargain.
Washington was unwilling to go too big on Chapman, who is a more obviously dominant pitcher than is Melancon. Still, it’s hard to argue that Melancon has been any less effective. Quite the contrary, in fact: the 31-year-old owns a sparkling 1.80 ERA over his four years and 260 1/3 innings with Pittsburgh, and while he doesn’t carry an elite strikeout rate (8.3 K/9), he has issued only 1.5 free passes per nine.
Melancon isn’t cheap at a $9.65MM salary, but most of that has already paid down and it’s not the kind of number that should pose problems. Though the Nationals have been said in the past not to be willing to take on salary at the deadline, the team’s payroll is far lower than it was last year and there are always creative solutions.
In terms of a return, the Nats could theoretically offer up some of its youthful, high-upside relief arms, such as Blake Treinen and Felipe Rivero. And the club has a bevy of top prospects. It was reportedly not interested in giving up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Trea Turner, or Victor Robles in a deal for Chapman, so it stands to reason the same holds true here — though the ongoing struggles of Jonathan Papelbon have perhaps made the Nats’ needs yet more pronounced.
Giolito, at least, isn’t going to be moved in such a trade, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), and it’s nearly impossible to imagine Turner going in a trade given his role on the current MLB roster. There may be somewhat more flexibility on Lopez, at least in theory; like Giolito, he has received a few major league spot starts (including one tonight), but Joe Ross is expected to return in short order. Righty Erick Fedde is another quality young top-100 prospect that could be discussed — though that’s pure speculation at this point.