By Jason Shetler
As Mark Melancon enters his free agent year, the question remains whether or not he will be dawn a Pirates uniform on Opening Day. He’s coming off a stellar 2015 season in which he posted a 2.23 ERA, a 173 ERA+ and recorded a Major League best 51 saves.
Melancon is projected to make around $10 million in arbitration. Heading into the offseason, my perception was that the Pirates would really sell high on him not just because of the great numbers he put up this past season, but also with the large salary figure, which small market teams usually try to move in an effort to allocate that money for other needs. That being said however, here are a couple reasons why Melancon staying in Pittsburgh can’t be ruled out.
The expectation seemed to be that Melancon would be dealt at the Winter Meetings. It’s hard to imagine that there wasn’t much interest for him in Nashville, so my guess is that the Pirates asking price return was probably deemed too high for other clubs to make a deal. With Melancon having just one more year of team control, the Pirates won’t get the same prospect package as the Padres received from the Red Sox in the Craig Kimbrel trade since Kimbrel has two years of control plus a club option. Also keep in mind that the Pirates non-tendered Pedro Alvarez and traded Charlie Morton, which saves them about $16 million. That salary relief could be enough to hang onto Melancon. The Pirates are likely going to add another starter to the rotation, so Melancon could still be attractive trade bait, if they choose to go that direction. While I’m not saying that Melancon will stick around with the Pirates, it certainly seems more of a possibility now than either back in October or prior to the Winter Meetings.