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Giants don’t trade Madison Bumgarner or Will Smith but do trade Mark Melancon somehow

The untradeable former closer has been traded — and for actual players!

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants did what nobody else saw coming: they traded their untradeable former closer, Mark Melancon. He had a full no trade clause, you’ll recall, but somehow, Farhan Zaidi was able to convince him to waive it in order to join the Atlanta Braves.

In exchange, the Giants will receive a pair of pitchers: the Braves’ 4th round pick in 2018, former Stanford star RHP Tristan Beck, and Rockies’ 20th round pick in 2011 turned 2014 Rule 5 pick by the Braves, RHP Daniel Winkler.

Beck was rated by MLB Pipeline as the Braves’ #17 prospect. Not in their Top 100, but still a solid player (that 40 FV or Future Value means scouts project him to be a major league contributor). His standout skill is a grade 60 changeup.

Beck is a very polished college pitcher who has an advanced feel to pitch. He reminds some in the organization of Kyle Wright in that regard, albeit without the same kind of power repertoire. But while Beck has more pitchability than wow stuff, there might be more in there than some anticipated. His fastball sits around 91-92 mph now, but he could add a few ticks as he adds strength to his 6-foot-4 frame, and he was showing more of that during his time in instructs last fall. He uses a plus changeup and average breaking ball effectively when he’s at his best.

He’s in high-A ball right now, so, don’t figure to see him for a while, if at all. But still, trading Mark Melancon for a team’s 17th-best prospect is more than we ever could’ve expected, and the second player in the deal is not just a bonus, but perhaps the genuine core of the move.

Dan Winkler’s 2019 has been catastrophic — a 5.86 FIP in just 21.2 innings — but he was terrific just a year ago: in 60 innings, he had a 2.76 FIP, 10.3 K/9 and 1.2 fWAR. Statcast loves his stuff: he has above average spin rates on his primary pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph average, 2,542 rpm spin), cutter (90.4 mph, 2,522 rpm), and curve (83.3 mph, 2,642 rpm), and a sinker that he threw harder last year but has lost four miles per hour on this season.

These are two surprising returns for Mark Melancon. It’s not that he’s been a bad pitcher, though. He rebounded rather nicely since his rocky, injury-riddled, and career-threatening debut season with the Giants in 2017. He’s not an elite reliever, per se, but just since the start of last season, he’s accumulated 0.8 fWAR, 79th among all relievers. More combined value than the likes of Kyle Crick and Shane Greene, the latter of whom was one of the hottest trade chips of the day.

He was once thought to have had a dead pronator muscle in his right arm, and instead, he’s persevered. It’s hard to know exactly what influence he had on the bullpen, if any, but what stands out is that despite his physical and on-field struggles — remember, we expected him to inherit the closer role after the Giants liquidated their ‘pen today — he never pushed the situation into an Armando Benitez-level event.

We can assume the Giants will be paying all or most of what’s left on Melancon’s deal (he’s signed through next year), and the Braves have certainly added a solid contributor to their bullpen, but really, it’s hard to analyze this beyond the shock.


The only thing I can figure here — besides Farhan Zaidi being a wizard — is the family connection between the Giants’ director of pro scouting, Zack Minasian and the Braves’ assistant GM, Perry Minasian. Maybe there was some sort of brother-to-brother assurance that happened here. The forward-thinking, cost control Braves just gave up two contracts to absorb a contract from the industry’s previous generation of contract types.

Mark Melancon was supposed to be Bobby Evans’ big move after the collapse of 2016, but it might’ve been the nail in the coffin of his career as a baseball executive. Farhan Zaidi’s request that he waive his no trade clause must’ve been spoken in such a kind way that Melancon remained open to the idea. Or whatever. Who knows. I thought the Pomeranz deal was going to be the stunner for the day, but here’s one that tops it.

If the Giants’ front office can do this... what’s next?