Mark Melancon, Diamondbacks Agree to Two-Year Contract, Pending Physical
The Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to terms with 2021 All-Star and National League Saves leader Mark Melancon, pending a physical. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who was first to report the signing, said that the deal is for two years and $14 million. The Diamondbacks confirmed the report shortly after it first surfaced.
Resume of Mark Melancon
Melancon, 36, pitched collegiately at the University of Arizona in Tucson. After the New York Yankees drafted him in the ninth round in 2006, he debuted in early 2009. He pitched 13 games for the Yankees, missing their 2009 World Series run.
At the July deadline in 2010, the Yankees shipped him to the Houston Astros. He pitched in Houston through the end of the 2011 season, when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. They kept him for one season before dealing him to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hitting His Prime
With the Pirates, he pitched from 2013 through mid-2016. In 267 appearances, he had a 1.80 ERA, 0.926 WHIP, and 130 saves. This helped the Pirates reach the postseason for the first time in 21 years in 2013, the first of three straight. In 2015, he led the National League with 51 saves en route to the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year reward.
A deadline day trade in 2016 sent the soon-to-be free agent to the Washington Nationals, where he continued his success. This led to a four-year, $62 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. He did not see as much success with the Giants, racking up a 3.67 ERA, 1.474 WHIP, and only 15 saves. They traded him to the Atlanta Braves at the 2019 deadline, where he finished out his contract with much-improved results.
He signed a $5 million contract with the San Diego Padres for 2021, where he seemed like the Pirates-era Mark Melancon. However, after leading the National League with 39 saves in addition to a 2.23 ERA and 1.222 WHIP over 64 appearances, he declined the $5 million mutual option and became a free agent.
Bringing Mark Melancon to Arizona
General manager Mike Hazen called Melancon a “proven” back-end reliever. He continued, “We talked at the beginning of the offseason about wanting to rebuild our ‘pen. It was a major issue for us last year. We’ve done some things on the edges and are going to continue to do some things as we move through the offseason. But getting a guy in this spot was important for us.”
Initial contact came “a long time ago,” in the words of Hazen, but they got “more aggressive” in the last five days. Melancon said that there were a few factors that went into ultimately signing with the Diamondbacks. “Starting in spring training, I got to see that there is a lot of talent. I don’t think the record was indicative of the talent level that’s here. It’s sometimes hard to see that when a bad record shows up. Playing against them as many games we did, I could see through that pretty easily. It’s tough to see it when you just look at paper. But when you’re facing these guys and trying to get them out, it’s a different story. I got to see it firsthand, and I’m very confident in this group.”
Returning to a Familiar Place and Working with a Guru
Another factor in Melancon’s decision to sign with the Diamondbacks was his experience at the University of Arizona. “Having some familiarity with Arizona and the ties to U of A is awesome. I still keep in touch with a lot of people down in Tucson — I love Tucson and all of Arizona. (There was) definitely a huge attraction for my family and me, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The opportunity to work with Brent Strom also attracted Melancon. “I’ve never heard a negative word about Strom,” he said. “After I got to talk to him, (I found) we had a lot in common. It just seems like our thought paths are very similar. I’m really excited to get to know him a lot better and work with him. Obviously, he’s had a ton of success and history behind him to help our guys here. I’m looking forward to that a lot.”
The Diamondbacks have found their closer. If the roster stays as is, Noé Ramirez and J.B. Wendelken — the only dependable returnees from 2021 — will likely be the seventh- and eighth-inning setup men. This is not a guarantee, however, according to Hazen. “Those guys pitched in leverage for us last year. Part of that was a function of what we had at the time. They did a pretty good job in some of those roles. I’m sure there’s going to be opportunity for them to come in and try to reassert themselves into some of those positions, but we’re not going to be done adding to the bullpen. So I don’t know where all that shakes out.”
Melancon will turn 37 during Spring Training 2022. The Diamondbacks desperately need help at the back end of their relief corps. If Melancon can maintain his form from 2021, this should be a step in the right direction. His 1.222 WHIP is of some concern, since it was both higher than his career average and a sign that luck might have played a role in his 2021 success. However, given the 2021 disaster in Arizona, it would be difficult to not be an improvement.
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Updated: 6:29 pm Eastern with quotes from Melancon and Hazen.