Mark Melancon Rumors

Arbitration Breakdown: Mark Melancon

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Mark Melancon has mostly bounced back and forth between closing and set-up roles over the last few years, but after starting 2014 as a set-up man, he finally put together a 30-save season. Since Melancon also had 14 holds accumulated early in the season, he became a rare player who had both solid set-up numbers and solid closing numbers in the same season. Saves and holds are highly dependent on factors outside of a pitcher’s control — mainly when he gets used — but they both factor into arbitration prices. Melancon also was great at performing well independent of context. With a 1.90 ERA in 71 innings, his run prevention skill adds to his arbitration case this winter, too.

Mark  Melancon

One of my goals for the arbitration model that I always strive for is to mimic real life to the extent possible. However, since the model is an algorithm, it cannot mimic the process perfectly, and I think the model really overstated Melancon this year. The model itself projected a $5MM raise from $2.6MM to $7.6MM, but the application of “The Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player cannot beat the previous record for his role and service class by more than $1MM, keeps Melancon at a $4.275MM raise (topping Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise in 2007 as an Arb 2 reliever), which would put him at $6.875MM. Even still, it is hard to make the case that Melancon will actually be earning that much next season.

The reason that the model is so bullish on Melancon is because he has impressive numbers in three different important categories: ERA, saves, and holds. The model knows that relievers who excel in a couple of these categories earn much more than those who only thrive in one, and it has inferred that Melancon’s success should translate to a record-breaking number. He is getting credit for being a full-time closer—because many solid closers do not get enough opportunities to rack up 33 saves in the first place—and for being a semi-regular set-up man with 14 holds. Many set-up men who share the role do not even top 14 holds in a season. On top of that, his 1.90 ERA puts him in elite status.

Of course, despite my belief that the model exaggerated Melancon’s likely salary, it was difficult to find many comparables. I tried to look for anyone in recent history who had at least 25 saves and at least 10 holds in his second year of arbitration eligibility. The only such pitcher that existed was Tyler Clippard, who had 32 holds and 13 saves two years ago, but Clippard had a 3.71 ERA, almost double that of Melancon. It seems likely that Melancon has a strong enough case to crush Clippard’s $2.35MM raise. Clippard also did not have the same history of saves that is often important in arbitration cases. He had only one career save before his 2012 season, but Melancon had already accumulated 47 saves before 2014.

I tried to look for pitchers who had just 20 saves and five holds, and only one extra pitcher emerged. Juan Carlos Oviedo had 30 saves and 5 holds four years ago, but he also had a pedestrian 3.46 ERA. His $1.65MM raise is very unlikely to look appropriate for Melancon. Going back further than five years added a couple more hybrids to the bunch—Brad Lidge in 2007 and Kevin Gregg in 2008. They got raises under $2MM as well, and neither had an amazing ERA or even had 10 holds. Looking for hybrid closer/set-up man types was not producing guys who had great seasons. Instead, it was finding guys with talent but who allowed a few too many runs.

That led me to abandon the holds criteria altogether. If we start with the idea that Melancon is a closer, and then give him a little bump for his set-up numbers, we may get somewhere more quickly. How many closers had 30 saves and ERAs under 2.00 like Melancon over the last few years? A very stale case, Francisco Rodriguez’s $3.275MM raise in 2007, arose as a possibility. He had 47 saves along with 1.73 ERA. Although that case is typically too old to be considered, it could serve as a clue. If Melancon’s 14 holds had all been saves, his case would look very similar. However, with eight years of salary inflation on top of that, Melancon could be in a position to get a more notable raise.

Jonathan Papelbon got a $3.1MM raise in his second year of arbitration eligibility in 2010 with a 1.85 ERA and 38 saves. Of course, he had 113 career saves going into his platform year, so he may have a slight advantage over Melacon’s 47. Joel Hanrahan in 2012 got a $2.7MM raise after a 1.83 ERA season in which he accumulated 40 saves. That could also serve as a solid comparable for Melancon, but without the set-up credentials. Hanrahan only had 20 pre-platform saves. No one else even managed a 2.50 ERA, so the other historical raises for second-year arbitration eligible relievers are less applicable. However, it is worth noting that several guys did get raises over $2.5MM.

Putting all of this together, Melancon’s case does seem genuinely unique. Hanrahan’s $2.7MM and Papelbon’s $3.1MM both look like reasonable comparables, with a few more saves and far fewer holds. I could see Melancon being able to successfully argue past K-Rod’s $3.275MM raise from eight years ago, but that could be challenging because of the 47 saves that K-Rod had in his platform season. On the other hand, an argument of Papelbon/Hanrahan’s raises near $3MM, plus a set-up man bonus of $500K or so, could put Melancon past K-Rod. My best guess is that Melancon gets a raise of about $3-3.5MM, good for a $5.6-6.1MM salary in 2015. That is nowhere near where the model puts him, but it seems more realistic in light of the relevant comparables that could be drawn upon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)


Red Sox Notes: Buchholz, Ellsbury, Aceves, Melancon

Clay Buchholz hopes to throw a bullpen session on Thursday at Fenway Park and, if all goes well, the right-hander may try a simulated a game a few days afterwards, Buchholz told reporters (including Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe) during Monday's All-Star festivities in New York.  Buchholz said he won't return until the stiffness in his neck has totally subsided, but “if I thought it was a do or die situation in September and we were pushing for the pennant, if it came to that, absolutely I’d be out there," he said. "There’s no risk right now, but I don’t feel comfortable doing it."

Here are some more items about the AL East-leading Red Sox…

  • Scott Boras, Jacoby Ellsbury's agent, told reporters (including WEEI.com's Alex Speier) that he wasn't planning to negotiate with GM Ben Cherington about a new contract for his client until after the season.  Ellsbury recently claimed the #2 spot on Tim Dierkes' free agent power rankings for the coming offseason.  The center fielder is hitting .305/.368/.422 and has stolen a league-leading 36 bases for the Sox this year, a performance that Boras attributes to Ellsbury's gradual recovery from a shoulder injury.
  • Alfredo Aceves is no longer represented by agent Tom O'Connell, Nick Cafardo reports (Twitter link).  The right-hander is believed to be representing himself for now, according to Rob Bradford and Alex Speier of WEEI.com.  Aceves was outrighted to Triple-A earlier today, the latest step in the reliever's tumultuous stint in Boston.  You can keep track of who's representing who in the baseball world via MLBTR's Agency Database.
  • The move from Boston to small-market Pittsburgh wasn't the reason for Mark Melancon's improvement in 2013, the reliever told media (including Tim Britton of the Providence Journal), saying that the improvement began after working on his mechanics and approach to pitching during a minor league stint last season.  Melancon allowed 11 runs in his first two innings with the Red Sox in 2012 but posted a 4.19 ERA over his next 43 innings, though it wasn't enough to keep him from being dealt to the Bucs last December.  With the Pirates, Melancon has posted a sterling 0.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 44 1/3 IP and earned his first All-Star appearance.


Red Sox Acquire Joel Hanrahan In Six-Player Trade

On the heels of back-to-back All-Star appearances, the Pirates have traded away their closer one year before he hits free agency. Pittsburgh has dealt Joel Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt to the Red Sox in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon, first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., and right-hander Stolmy Pimentel. Both teams have announced the trade.

Uspw_6394936Hanrahan, 31, pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 in 59 2/3 innings for Pittsburgh last season. Despite having a reputation as a strong closer, some rival evaluators have been concerned about his conditioning and recent proclivity for walks. Hanrahan's walk rate climbed from 2.1 BB/9 in 2011 to 5.4 BB/9 in 2012. Matt Swartz projects the right-hander to earn $6.9MM through arbitration this winter after pulling down $4.1MM in 2012. Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal notes he will not net the Red Sox a compensation draft pick if he signs elsewhere based on the assumption Hanrahan will accept a pricey qualifying offer (Twitter links).

Melancon, 27, pitched to a 6.20 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 45 relief innings with the Red Sox after being acquired from the Astros last winter. He spent some time in Triple-A as well, then returned to the big league club at midseason. Melancon struck out 40 and walked just ten in his final 43 innings of the season. The former Houston closer will step into Pittsburgh's bullpen to provide depth behind the recently re-signing Jason Grilli, who will take over as closer.

Both Sands and De Jesus came to the Red Sox in their summer blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. The 25-year-old Sands owns a Triple-A batting line of .288/.362/.552 with 55 home runs in 940 plate appearances across the past two years. He also has 70 big league games to his credit, most of which came in 2011. De Jesus, 25, has 80 big league plate appearances under his belt and is a .303/.355/.416 hitter in 1,294 career Triple-A plate appearances. The Red Sox had recently removed him from their 40-man roster.

Pimentel, 22, was rated as the sixth best prospect in the Red Sox's organization in 2010 by Baseball America but was bumped down to No. 23 the following year. The 6-foot-3 right-hander boasts a strong changeup but has failed to impress at the Double-A level. In 37 starts for Double-A Portland, the youngster has posted a 5.96 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Alex Speier of WEEI.com notes that Pimentel was targeted by the Pirates in 2008 as part of the three-way deal with the Dodgers and Red Sox that resulted in Manny Ramirez going to LA and Jason Bay coming to Boston, but the Sox refused to include him.

Holt, 24, was rated as the 27th best prospect in the Pirates' farm system in 2010 by Baseball America, but he has not been featured by the publication in their annual Prospect Handbook since. He hit .292/.329/.354 in 72 big league plate appearances this season, his MLB debut. Holt has hit .317/.381/.427 throughout his minor league career, including a .344/.406/.453 showing between Double-A and Triple-A this past season. He's played the middle infield exclusively as a professional, spending most of his time at short rather than second.

Andrew Bailey, Boston's incumbent closer, pitched to a 7.04 ERA in 15 1/3 innings in 2012 while missing most of the year with injuries. The additions of Hanrahan and Koji Uehara give the Red Sox some late-inning bullpen depth along with Junichi Tazawa and possibly Daniel Bard if he can bounceback from a disastrous season. The Pirates will pair Melancon and Grilli with Jared Hughes and Tony Watson, though they could also seek additional relief help on the free agent market.

ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes first reported that the two sides were nearing an agreement while ESPN's Jim Bowden reported the agreement (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, John Tomase of the Boston Herald, MLB.com's Evan Drellich, MLB.com's Peter Gammons, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports all added details on Twitter. Mike Axisa contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Bard, Melancon, Mortensen On Waivers

The Red Sox have placed Daniel Bard, Mark Melancon and Clayton Mortensen on revocable waivers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter). The Red Sox have placed many players on waivers since the current waiver period opened at the beginning of August; this is by no means an indication that they intend to trade more players.

 If the right-handers go unclaimed, the Red Sox would be able to trade them to any team (the players wouldn’t be eligible for postseason rosters). If a team claims one of the players, the Red Sox will have three choices. They can let the player (and his contract) go to the claiming team, they can complete a trade with the claiming team, or they can pull the player back off of waivers. American League teams will have claiming priority on the three Red Sox pitchers. 


Red Sox Notes: Rotation, Tazawa, Melancon

The latest on the Red Sox, via Alex Speier of WEEI.com…


Cherington On Madson, Saunders, Melancon, Darvish

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on MLB Network Radio's "Inside Pitch" with Jim Bowden this afternoon to speak about the club's offseason plans.  Alex Speier of WEEI.com has a partial transcript of the interview and here are some highlights…

  • Cherington said the Red Sox are looking for rotation depth.  The team is satisfied with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation so the Sox "don’t feel like we’re backed into a place where we need to break the door in for a top-of-the-rotation starter," Cherington said.  "If we can do that and it makes sense for us, then we’ll certainly do that. We’re always looking for ways to do that. But…we’re in good position there and can kind of let the market come to us a little bit."
  • To this end, Cherington said "the timing wasn’t right" for the team to bid on Yu Darvish.
  • Cherington said he had been in contact with Ryan Madson and Joe Saunders' representatives "as well as several other free agent options." 
  • The newly-acquired Mark Melancon projects as Boston's closer, at least for now.  “As I told Mark on the phone when I talked to him, we believe he can close….If the season opened tomorrow, that’s what he’d be doing,” Cherington said.  This, of course, could easily change should the Red Sox sign Madson or trade for Andrew Bailey.
  • The Red Sox have interviewed Brad Arnsberg and Neil Allen about the vacant pitching coach job and also talked to "several" other candidates.

Red Sox Acquire Melancon For Lowrie, Weiland

The Red Sox acquired reliever Mark Melancon from the Astros for shortstop Jed Lowrie and starter Kyle Weiland, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  ESPN's Jerry Crasnick first tweeted that Weiland was traded to Houston in a deal that involved a reliever going to Boston.  The deal marks the first trade involving Major Leaguers by both Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington since taking over their respective roles. 

Melancon, 26, turned in a 2.78 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9, and 56.7% groundball rate in 74 1/3 innings this year, saving 20 games in 25 tries.  The right-hander won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season and won't hit free agency until after the 2016 campaign.  Acquiring Melancon will bolster Boston's bullpen, but they're unlikely to stop here, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Boston has reportedly been after A's closer Andrew Bailey and Rosenthal says that they can't be ruled out on Ryan Madson.

Lowrie has been drawing a good deal interest from clubs this offseason.  The infielder's name also came up during the Winter Meetings when the Red Sox met with the Rangers and discussed possible trades.  In 341 plate appearances for Boston last season, the oft-injured Lowrie hit .252/.303/.382 with six homers.  Lowrie has been used all around the infield, but he's likely to take over as the Astros' starting shortstop.  He's arbitration eligible for the first time this winter and MLBTR projects a $1.2MM salary.

Weiland, 25, struggled in 24 2/3 innings in his Red Sox debut this year.  At Triple-A, he posted a 3.58 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 0.70 HR/9 in 128 1/3 innings.  A third-round pick in 2008, Baseball America ranked Weiland 20th among Red Sox prospects prior to the season.  BA says the former Notre Dame closer "relishes pitching inside" and his "best pitch is a low-90s fastball that peaks at 95 but is most notable for its hard sink."  The Astros plan to use Weiland as a starter in 2012, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.

The Astros will have to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, as it was full prior to the trade.


Odds & Ends: Yankees, Giambi, Smoltz

On this day last year, Brian Giles invoked his no-trade clause in a deal that would have sent him to Boston. Some links:


Odds & Ends: Berroa, Yankees, Scheppers, Pirates

More odds, more ends, more links…

  • Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog reports that the Mets have designated Angel Berroa for assignment. Berroa's tenure in Flushing lasted 31 plate appearances, in which he fashioned a .148-.233-.185 batting line.
  • George A. King III of The NY Post reports that the Yankees placed second baseman Robinson Cano, as well as relievers Brian Bruney, David Robertson, and Mark Melancon on waivers this past Wednesday. King says it's "highly unlikely the Yankees will deal Cano."
  • MLB.com's Daniel Paulling spoke to Greg Genske, agent for Rangers' supplemental first round pick Tanner Scheppers, and reports that Genske is "setting up an audition for Scheppers for about a half dozen Japanese teams within a couple of weeks." Genske hasn't decided whether or not to invite the Rangers to workout, and also mentions that Scheppers has been given a clean bill of health.
  • In addition to eighth rounder Colton Cain, the Pirates have also signed fourth round pick Zackry Dodson according to MLB.com's Jen Langosch. Team president Frank Coonelly denied a report that the team reached an agreement with Dodson last month.
  • Patrick at NPB Tracker passes along a report that Chris Resop has left the Hanshin Tigers and returned home to the States to recover from pain in his throwing elbow. Resop doesn't have any immediate plans to return to Japan, and Patrick says he's unlikely to get another shot with Hanshin.