Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the contract is for four years and $62 million. That would be the most lucrative deal ever given to a reliever, but don’t expect that record to last long considering the other names currently on the market.
The Giants entered the offseason with a clear need to revamp their erratic bullpen. Nabbing Melancon, one of this winter’s “big three” free agent closers, will go a long way toward stabilizing their relief corps.
After a very strong first half, San Francisco imploded after the All-Star break, barely sneaking into the postseason with a Wild Card berth. Their bullpen troubles were a major reason for their second-half struggles. The Giants led the league with 30 blown saves and posted a 58.9 percent save conversion rate; only five teams were worse.
Veteran Santiago Casilla handled the closer’s duties for the bulk of the season, notching 31 saves. He blew nine chances, however, and his unreliability eventually led to him being removed from the role. Manager Bruce Bochy cycled through several other options toward the end of the season, including Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland and Derek Law.
Their inability to figure out a consistent bullpen formula proved costly, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the postseason. The Giants took a three-run lead into the ninth inning of Game 4 of their NLDS matchup against the Chicago Cubs. Rather than force a decisive fifth game against the eventual World Series champions, five Giants relievers combined to allow four runs in the frame. The Cubs won the game and the series with a 6-5 victory. It was a gut-wrenching, yet somewhat fitting ending to the Giants’ year.
San Francisco will hope to avoid such late-inning meltdowns next season with Melancon now in the fold. The 31-year-old right-hander has rather quietly been one of the game’s premier closers over the past few seasons. His 98 saves since 2015 are the most by any player over that span. Since 2013, he has managed a 1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 5.96 K/BB ratio.
After three stellar years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Melancon was dealt to the Washington Nationals prior to last season’s trade deadline. He gave the Nats everything they could have wanted, converting 17 of 18 save opportunities down the stretch. He will now hope to do the same for his newest club as they aim to launch another postseason run.
The reported terms of Melancon’s contract are good news for the other top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. It’s been generally accepted that they – each younger and a bit more “flashy” than Melancon – will command larger deals than their peer. With Melancon now off the table, expect some movement soon on the others, and don’t be surprised to see sums reaching at least $80 million and probably higher.