Me­lan­con strikes it rich; Rock­ies still need re­lief

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders Pa­trick Saun­ders: psaun­ders@den­ver­ or @psaun­der­sdp

The home­town kid struck it rich, just not in his home­town.

All-star re­lief pitcher Mark Me­lan­con, the pride of Golden High School, signed a four-year con­tract with the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants on Mon­day for the princely sum of $62 mil­lion, a deal the Rock­ies could not match.

Me­lan­con’s con­tract set a record for most lu­cra­tive con­tract ever signed by a closer, sur­pass­ing Jonathan Papel­bon’s four-year, $50 mil­lion deal with Philadel­phia in 2011. That record, how­ever, prob­a­bly will be shat­tered soon. Fel­low freeagent closers Aroldis Chap­man and Ken­ley Jansen are hunt­ing for fat, new con­tracts.

The Rock­ies had talks with Me­lan­con’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, but San Fran­cisco was the clear front-run­ner to land the right-han­der.

“We kept in touch and checked in to see where his rep­re­sen­ta­tives thought the mar­ket would go,” Rock­ies gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich said at the win­ter meet­ings. “He just ended up be­ing a bet­ter fit some­where else. … They knew that we were in­ter­ested, but I wouldn’t say we were at the front of the line.”

What’s next?

Now that Me­lan­con is off the mar­ket, where do the Rock­ies go to bol­ster their bullpen? They will con­tinue to mon­i­tor other free agents, and the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing a trade is still in play.

“If we can add im­pact­ful pitch­ers, we will add as many as we pos­si­bly can,” Bridich said.

Kansas City is open to trad­ing righthanded re­liever Wade Davis, who was key to the Roy­als’ 2015 World Se­ries ti­tle. Would the Rock­ies be open to work­ing out a deal for him?

“Again, we are open to all av­enues,” Bridich said. “We plan on talk­ing to ev­ery team, and most we al­ready have, in ad­vance of th­ese meet­ings.”

Come­back kid:

Hard-throw­ing righthander Jairo Diaz, 25, who un­der­went Tommy John surgery and missed the 2016 sea­son, is mak­ing ex­cel­lent progress as he re­habs in his na­tive Do­mini­can Repub­lic. At some point next sea­son, the Rock­ies ex­pect him to be a sig­nif­i­cant part of their re­lief corps.

“He’s do­ing very well,” Bridich said. “He’s been shut down by de­sign, for now, but we feel re­ally good about where he is at. The ball is re­ally fly­ing out of his hand.”

Catch­ing at­ten­tion.

New man­ager Bud Black says the Rock­ies can suc­ceed with young catch­ers Tony Wolters, Tom Mur­phy and Dustin Garneau be­hind the plate.

“The Gi­ants won with Buster Posey as a young catcher,” Black said dur­ing his morn­ing me­dia ses­sion. “Yes, it can be done, no doubt about it. There is a learn­ing curve, ab­so­lutely, on both sides, for the pitch­ers and the catch­ers.

“But there’s no doubt, the ex­pec­ta­tions that we’re go­ing to place on our catch­ers is high. I’m big on the pitcher-catcher thing, big on that re­la­tion­ship. I felt it as a player. When I got to Ana­heim (as a pitch­ing coach), one of the things (I learned) early on in my re­la­tion­ship with (man­ager) Mike (Scios­cia) was that he felt the same way, from his per­spec­tive as a catcher. So that has never left me, and over time, I’ve re­al­ized how im­por­tant it is.”

Mark Me­lan­con has gone from Golden High School to be an elite ma­jor-league closer.

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