Me­lan­con bolts for Gi­ants deal

Four-year pact leaves Na­tion­als search­ing for new closer

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

OXON HILL, MD. | The Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ closer has gone else­where.

Mark Me­lan­con signed a four-year deal with the San Fran­cisco Gi ants on Mon­day, choos­ing a more lu­cra­tive con­tract from the Gi­ants in­stead of re­turn­ing to the Na­tion­als.

Me­lan­con was ac­quired by the Na­tion­als July 30 in a trade with the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates for Felipe Rivero and mi­nor league pitcher Tay­lor Hearn.

Me­lan­con signed with San Fran­cisco for $62 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Ken Rosen­thal of Fox Sports. That sets the high-end bot­tom for what was ex­pected to be an ex­pen­sive up­per-tier closer mar­ket. It also leaves the Na­tion­als search­ing.

“We gave him an offer we felt was mar­ket value,” Na­tion­als gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo said. “You’re talk­ing about one of the elite closers in the game. A great team­mate that con­ducted him­self per­fectly as a Wash­ing­ton Na­tional. At the end of the day, the Gi­ants of­fered him more and he took the deal. That’s what free agency’s all about.”

Left-handed Aroldis Chap­man and right-handed Ken­ley Jansen are also free agents. Each is ex­pected to re­ceive more money than Me­lan­con, who has a 1.80 ERA since 2013.

If the Na­tion­als are not will­ing to pay top dol­lar for Chap­man or Jansen, they could pur­sue a trade. Pitch­ers like the Kansas City Roy­als’ Wade Davis are ru­mored to be avail­able. Other free agent re­liev­ers with clos­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in­clude Ser­gio Romo, Greg Hol­land, Nef­tali Feliz and San­ti­ago Casilla.

Closer op­tions on the ros­ter are lim­ited. Shawn Kel­ley could be a choice, though the Na­tion­als have been pro­tec­tive of his us­age. He has had ul­nar col­lat­eral lig­a­ment re­place­ment surgery (Tommy John surgery) twice. Out­side of Kel­ley, there are min­i­mal in­ter­nal op­tions.

Koda Glover may be the closer of the fu­ture. Af­ter roar­ing through Wash­ing­ton’s mi­nor league sys­tem last sea­son and be­ing called up to the ma­jor leagues July 20, Glover strug­gled af­ter a brisk start. He fin­ished with a 5.03 ERA in 19⅔ in­nings. That makes him ap­pear un­pre­pared to take such a prom­i­nent spot next sea­son.

“I’m con­fi­dent and com­fort­able he’s go­ing to be a good as­set for the ball club,” Rizzo said. “He’s got good stuff, the right at­ti­tude. He’s got a lit­tle edge to him and a 98-mph fast­ball.”

Wash­ing­ton en­tered the first full day of the win­ter meet­ings at Na­tional Har­bor at­tached to three names: Me­lan­con, Pitts­burgh Pi­rates out­fielder Andrew McCutchen and Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale. Rizzo bobbed and weaved when asked about ru­mors and other play­ers. Asked about an in­ci­dent last sea­son when Sale cut up his jer­sey and sev­eral of his team­mate’s jer­seys out of frus­tra­tion that he was forced to wear an ill-fit­ting out­fit for a throw­back jer­sey pro­mo­tion, Rizzo ex­plained he does not com­ment on the makeup of play­ers on an­other team.

In re­gard to McCutchen, he al­lowed a mod­er­ate over­view.

“He’s a good player,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy that — all I know is when he’s in the bat­ter’s box against us, he’s not a guy I want to see up there.”

The Na­tion­als have talked to the White Sox and Pi­rates about prospec­tive trades. Rizzo added that the club has spo­ken with mul­ti­ple teams about var­i­ous sce­nar­ios.

Rizzo also would not bite when asked if the Na­tion­als have been dis­cussing what is ex­pected to be a mas­sive long-term con­tract with Bryce Harper, who can be­come a free agent af­ter the 2018 sea­son. Ac­cord­ing to sev­eral me­dia re­ports Mon­day, the 2016 Na­tional League MVP is ask­ing for base­ball’s first $400 mil­lion deal.

“It’s not like us to dis­cuss any­thing when we talk to play­ers about any­thing,” Rizzo said. “I’m not go­ing to an­swer any of those kinds of ques­tions. Those are pri­vate dis­cus­sions be­tween us and the play­ers.”

Black fi­nally makes his way to Wash­ing­ton

Bud Black was on the out­skirts of Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day, a place some thought he would be 13 months ago.

In late Oc­to­ber of 2015, er­ro­neous re­ports that Black was hired to be the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ next man­ager be­gan to sur­face. The Na­tion­als did not com­ment on the re­ports, which trick­led out dur­ing the World Se­ries be­tween the Kansas City Roy­als and New York Mets. Some re­porters at­trib­uted the team’s si­lence to the news be­ing de­liv­ered dur­ing the World Se­ries. The league frowns upon an­nounce­ments that dis­tract from the post­sea­son’s fi­nal event.

But, the rea­son the Na­tion­als did not con­firm those re­ports was be­cause Black in fact had not been hired. Six days later, the team hired Dusty Baker to re­place Matt Wil­liams. When asked about the re­ports, Rizzo took a swing the day Baker was in­tro­duced.

“That was wrong, wasn’t it?” Rizzo said at the time.

That didn’t mean the hir­ing process was a smooth one. Baker read­ily ad­mit­ted he thought he would not be the next man­ager in Wash­ing­ton. It was strange and re­fresh­ing to hear such can­dor.

If Baker thought he was out, did Black ever think he was in?

“When I went through the ini­tial in­ter­view process ... you never re­ally know how things are go­ing to play out,” Black said Mon­day. “Even to­wards the end there when it was spec­u­lated, you still don’t know un­til it hap­pens. That’s sort of how it is. When I look back, you never re­ally know un­til it’s fi­nal.”

Black, hired a month ago to man­age the Colorado Rock­ies af­ter work­ing last sea­son as a spe­cial as­sis­tant to the gen­eral man­ager in Ana­heim, was ret­i­cent to com­ment any fur­ther.

“What I learned in this game — this goes back to be­ing a player, you never know un­til some­thing is fi­nal,” Black said. “That’s prob­a­bly the best way to put it.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pitcher Mark Me­lan­con signed a four-year deal with the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants Mon­day, fa­vor­ing a more lu­cra­tive con­tract in­stead of re­turn­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als.

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