After almost three years with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, closer Mark Melancon will be heading to Washington, D.C. On Saturday, it was announced Melancon was traded to the Washington Nationals in return for reliever Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn.
Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said it was a “very difficult decision” to trade Melancon, especially “given the person that (he) is … he’s poured his heart and soul into this organization.”
Melancon has had a phenomenal 2016 season, which included a trip to this year’s All-Star Game. The 31-year-old pitcher has a 1.51 ERA and 30 saves. (He’s fourth on the NL list in saves.)
Huntington was adamant that the Pirates organization remains committed to making a playoff appearance — and even winning the NL Central. He said he understands that this move will be a tough one to swallow in the clubhouse, but Huntington said the team knows that they got two very talented pitchers in return.
Pittsburgh saw firsthand what Rivero can do. In the 18-inning game on July 17 between the Pirates and the Nationals, Rivero pitched three innings, allowing one hit and giving up one walk while striking out three.
Huntington said the Pirates should be excited about what Rivero brings.
“They understand the quality of this man’s arm, this man’s stuff,” Huntington said. “We believe that they understand we just added a quality arm.”
Rivero will plug in well in manager Clint Hurdle’s system. Rivero will likely be Pittsburgh’s seventh-inning guy — Neftali Feliz (2.97 ERA) will pitch the eighth, and Tony Watson (2.66 ERA) will be the Pirates’ new closer. Arquimedes Caminero and Jared Hughes will also help handle the middle innings.
Washington was in the process of using prospect Hearn in a protected role in the minor league bullpen, which will continue for the Pirates. Pittsburgh does see starter traits in Hearn, but the team wants to connect with him (and his pitches) a little more to see where he is before making any decisions.
Hearn typically throws in the mid- to upper-90s, but Huntington said they’ve read reports of Hearn throwing in the 100s. The team sees a “loose arm,” a “good athlete” and “flashes of quality hand speed,” which is the key to a good changeup.
While Rivero can help the Pirates now, this deal looks like a very good bet for the organization’s future. Melancon will be a free agent after this season’s World Series, but Rivero is locked up for five years and Hearn for six.
“We really like the return we got for two months of Mark,” Huntington said.
“We certainly will wish Mark the absolute best and success in any game where he isn’t pitching against the Pirates.”
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