Here’s something I’m tired of reading about: Andrew Miller and the chance the Giants missed. They missed out, sure, but the bigger misses came years earlier, when they drafted and signed prospects who weren’t as good as the ones the Indians gave up. It’s entirely possible that the Yankees would have preferred the Indians’ trade package to the Giants’, even if Joe Panik were included. The Giants missed out on trading for Andrew Miller in the same way they missed out on drafting Bryce Harper. That is, they didn’t.
Mark Melancon, though. Oh, sweet Mark Melancon. If the Giants trade for him, they beat the Indians in six games. I’ve seen through time and looked into the multiverse, and I know this to be true. This is the player the Giants could have had, and he would have been perfect.
At least they have a chance to make it right. While Kenley Jansen is the true apple of my eye, there’s a logical case to make for Melancon. It might be the stronger case, to be honest. Consider all of the points in his favor
Melancon won’t cost as much
The difference between Jansen and Melancon over the last four seasons:
Jansen: 263 IP, 64 ER, 2.19 ERA, 1.86 FIP
Melancon: 290 IP, 58 ER, 1.80 ERA, 2.25 FIP
If you’re just interested in run prevention, Melancon has been better over the last four seasons. More durable, too. Yet Jon Heyman’s predictions have Melancon getting a full $19 million less on a shorter deal. MLB Trade Rumors is predicting him to the Giants on a deal that’s $33 million cheaper. That’s the difference between just a closer in the offseason and a closer and another outfielder or fifth starter.
This is because Melancon doesn’t have the gaudy strikeout numbers, which is fair, and also because he’s three years older. But that might be a good thing. It means the contract will still be absurd by reliever standards, but at least it won’t be for five or six years.
There’s no draft pick attached to Melancon
Jansen is the best of the best, sure, but the Giants shouldn’t ditch their first-round pick in 2017 if they don’t have to. Because Melancon was traded mid-season, the Nationals won’t get any draft compensation for him.
The Giants will pick in the 20s, so it’s not a dealbreaker if they have to lose a pick to get the player they want. But sometimes picks in the 20s become Joe Paniks. And you know how good those guys are. You can use them to trade for Andrew Millers!
Melancon is still an elite closer
It’s not that he can’t strike batters out — he usually averages between eight or nine strikeouts per nine innings pitched — it’s that he can’t compete with the hyper-strikeout monsters like Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and Miller.
He doesn’t have to, though. Melancon keeps the ball in the park, allowing just 10 home runs over the last four seasons. For perspective, that’s just two more home runs than Santiago Casilla allowed just last season.
Melancon does a fantastic job limiting mistakes, and it’s not just the home runs. His walk rates are usually elite, and he even keeps the wild pitches down. He’s never allowed a balk in his career, either. Cough.
He’s a pitcher who will get hit rarely, and that’s just about the only way he’ll blow a game.
Melancon has been healthy
He’ll be 32, so take all this with a mouthful of salt. Hunter Pence was an iron man until he wasn’t. Matt Cain was The Horse until he wasn’t. But since coming back from Tommy John surgery (in his first pro season), Melancon hasn’t been on the DL. I can’t even find anything suggesting he’s been day-to-day.
I keep having this reoccurring dream in which the Giants sign a closer for a billion dollars and he doesn’t even make it out of spring training. While that could happen with every single pitcher the Giants sign, at least there haven’t been a lot of red flags with Melancon.
He’s a rich-man’s-just-not-quite-that-rich Kenley Jansen, right down to how he uses the cutter a majority of the time, but he’ll be much cheaper without costing a draft pick. So it seems like this isn’t much of a contest, right? He makes sound, logical sense in every way, other than not breaking the hearts of Dodgers fans.
Which is one heckuva point in Jansen’s favor. I’ll bet Tommy Lasorda would swear a lot. My word, just picture it.
Still, I’m warming to the idea of Melancon, even though he’ll still get a gigantic contract to throw 70 innings every year. It just won’t be a contract that’s as silly as whatever Jansen gets, and I’m not convinced there’s $30 million worth of difference between the two.
It’s probably a smart offseason to get Melancon and (other good player) rather than just Jansen. I’m spoiled, though, and I’ve already written Jansen’s name on my binders with a bunch of hearts around it, so this shift will take some time to get used to. As is, though, the Giants are probably more interested in the prudent option on the second tier of closers.
We’ll see if the rest of the league is going to let them get away with it. The Giants aren’t going to be the only ones who want Melancon, and he might think San Francisco smells like a briney mess, which it kind of does. It washes out, though! It washes out! Mostly!
I’ll give the Giants at least even odds of offering the most money, though. This seems like a very Giants move. I’m okay with it. Hopefully Melancon will, too.