RHP Mark Melancon – 31 years old
2016: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals
In any other offseason, Melancon would be the number one relief option on the open market. This year, however, he’s widely considered to be option number three behind Jansen and Chapman.
That shouldn’t be seen as a knock on Melancon, though, as he remains one of the most dominant closers in all of baseball. After putting up 51 saves with a 2.23 ERA in 2015, the right-hander followed it up with 47 more saves and an excellent 1.64 ERA this season.
Of benefit to Melancon’s free agency is the fact that he was traded in-season from Pittsburgh to Washington for Taylor Hearn and Felipe Rivero. That deal negates the possibility of Melancon being issued a qualifying offer, freeing his market up with no draft pick being attached to his name.
Melancon has been worth at least 1.5 Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs) over the past four seasons with a ground ball percentage typically in the high-50s. His average velocities actually took a (very) small step forward this year from 2015, which was a year of slight regression. His batted ball metrics remain consistent as well, and his cutter is as strong as ever, so Melancon is showing no signs of slowing.
There are certainly a lot of recent innings on Melancon’s arm, however, as he’s averaged 74 appearances annually for the past four years. The early 30s are typically where high-use relievers begin to battle regression — some even earlier — so Melancon does come with a sliver of risk, especially at the back end of his contract.
This is likely to keep him just below the contract length that Jansen or Chapman are likely to receive.
Anyone of Melancon’s calibre is also an unnatural fit in the Blue Jays bullpen with the presence of Osuna. The 21-year-old held off Drew Storen in spring training 2016, but a reliever like Melancon is a different situation altogether.
In a game of hypotheticals, Osuna would be the one to move into a more flexible, high-leverage role with Melancon taking over the traditional role of closer, but that introduces some moving parts to the equation.
Likelihood: As likely as Dioner Navarro stealing second base on Ivan Rodriguez.
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