By Jared Lankes
The Cubs acquired closer Aroldis Chapman and got a massive haul in return. This has gotten people licking their lips about what the Pirates could get for closer Mark Melancon. I’m here to say, hold your jets.
Firstly, I want to debunk the similarities of the Yankees and the Pirates this year. The seasons have been similar, but the Yankees playoff chances in a tougher AL is definitely much lower than the Pirates. Also, you look at the Yankees back end and they have two guys in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller that would be closers on many teams. The Pirates don’t have that. While Tony Watson and Neftali Feliz have been good, the Yankees guys are in a league all their own. I’m not bashing the Pirates bullpen by any means, but I can’t get behind Watson or Feliz filling in for Melancon at this point in the season. That’s playing with fire unless you have another established option like the Yankees have with Miller, who has closed in the past and has been the best closer that is not a closer.
Secondly, Melancon’s value to this bullpen is extraordinary. When he comes in the game, I’m almost assured the Pirates will win. You don’t get that with too many closers. Melancon is one of the rare ones. He rarely blows saves, and even when he does the Pirates win. That’s an invaluable asset you can’t put a price on. That kind of closer puts them in a much better situation with almost every other team contending with them. The only team it doesn’t is the Mets who have Mr. Automatic in Jeurys Familia, a guy that is climbing up charts in consecutive saves converted records. In any case, Melancon is a guy that gives the Pirates a massive edge over many teams. Trading that away would kill that advantage the Pirates have.
Now, I know the Pirates are going to be so much better in 2017 and beyond. That’s no secret, at least we hope. However, there are guys that are here right now that won’t be back. Matt Joyce, David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, Neftali Feliz, and others will likely not be around in 2017. Combined this with the questions surrounding Jung-Ho Kang as well. This team has maybe the best roster of any team, before trade deadline, that Huntington has built. It’s extremely difficult to believe that this team can’t do big things even this year. It’s not time to subtract good players from the this roster. It’s time to add good players to this roster. The future is most likely bright, but it’s always hard to guarantee that with any team. We’ve seen teams just fall apart when it looked like their peak was coming. I doubt that’ll happen to this organization but who knows. The Pirates are in contention right now, and while it’s a crapshoot in the wildcard race this year, it’s better than where most teams are.
If this team was interested in punting on 2016, they wouldn’t have tried to make a good roster that could contend, and they would’ve certainly traded Melancon in the offseason. In my mind, trading one of the best closers in the game is essentially giving up on any playoff hope, especially since big-time backend bullpen arms are essential in postseason play. Giving up one of the ones that the Pirates have would be telling, and it would send a bad message. Neal Huntington wants this team to make the postseason for a 4th straight time (a franchise record), and giving away a closer with the pedigree of Melancon would go against the whole point.
Firstly, it would take a massive change over the next week for the Pirates to trade Melancon. I don’t see it happening, and it shouldn’t. This team can’t keep looking into the future or they’ll lose the present. I’m all for balancing the future and present, but this move would signify an imbalance in my opinion. Secondly, Melancon gives the Pirates more value being around helping them get to the playoffs and beyond than the return the Pirates would get in a trade for him to do what he’s been doing here for years somewhere else. Melancon is one of the most important players the Pirates have. Losing him would have consequences that the Pirates don’t want to deal with. It’s time to go on a run for the playoffs, and to do that, Melancon has to be in Pittsburgh for that to happen.