Jon Heyman has a rumors article up at CBSSports.com, and it includes two expected Pirates trade notes. Heyman says that “two rival GMs” have said Mark Melancon is on the trading block, and also notes that Pedro Alvarez is available.
I’ll start with the latter, because it’s simple. Of course Pedro Alvarez is available. He’s set to make an estimated $8.1 M this year through arbitration, and was replacement level last year with horrible defense at first base. My feeling is that if Alvarez could be traded, he would have already been traded. That doesn’t prevent an AL team from looking at him as a DH. But it would probably be cheaper to sign him after the Pirates non-tender him, rather than trading something for him and tendering him a contract. If the Pirates do end up trading him, they’re unlikely to get anything significant in return.
As for Melancon, he was the best reliever in the National League this year, and has been one of the best relievers in baseball the last three years. He’s projected to make $10 M in his final year of arbitration, and the Pirates are already going to be looking at a big payroll increase with the other moves they have to make.
It wouldn’t be a bad thing to trade Melancon. The Pirates have had a lot of success in the past finding really good closers who came at a cheap price. Melancon was acquired for one year of Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan was acquired for Sean Burnett in the second half of a trade that was supposed to tip the scales in favor of the Washington Nationals. The Pirates have also signed Octavio Dotel to a fairly cheap deal, and got Jason Grilli practically for free from the Phillies.
The Pirates already have a replacement on their team in Tony Watson. He has been just as dominant as Melancon the last few years, and is under control for two more seasons. That would create some other questions, such as the need for a new setup man, and the question of whether the Pirates would want to use a lefty reliever as a closer. If they did, they’d probably need another solid lefty reliever for the late innings. But their history shows that they’ve been pretty good at picking up the next good reliever. If they can get a good return for Melancon, then they shouldn’t hesitate to deal him.
Whether they can get a good return for Melancon is the big thing. I think they can, even if Heyman is saying other talented closers are on the block. The Pirates got Melancon for one year of Hanrahan. Melancon has been a much better reliever than Hanrahan, with fewer red flags. So they should get a better return this time around. I think they could get at least a top 50 prospect for Melancon, just based on how good he has been the last few years.