NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Committing an unprecedented sum of money in an attempt to offset unprecedented lapses in performance, the Giants obtained the closer they sought by agreeing to terms Monday with free-agent right-hander Mark Melancon.
San Francisco did not divulge details of Melancon's contract, which will become official pending the obligatory physical examination.
The New York Post reported that Melancon received a four-year deal worth $62 million. Assuming those figures are accurate, both the contract's average annual value of $15.5 million and the total figure established highs for relief pitchers. Both all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, whose salary topped out at $15 million annually, and Jonathan Papelbon, who signed for $50 million over four years with Philadelphia before the 2012 season, were eclipsed.
Melancon is not expected to remain the game's highest-paid reliever for very long. Right-hander Kenley Jansen and left-hander Aroldis Chapman -- two other top closers available in free agency -- likely will command more lucrative deals.
The unique circumstances of this offseason, featuring a short supply of closers combined with considerable demand for their services, forced Melancon's contract skyward. So did the Giants' near-desperate need to find a closer who could not only protect ninth-inning leads, but also provide stability for San Francisco's other relievers, whose roles were ill-defined.
While losing faith in Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, San Francisco blew 30 saves in 2016, the most in franchise history since saves became an official statistic in 1969. That included nine defeats in games when the Giants led entering the ninth inning, another franchise mark. Five of those losses occurred in September. Moreover, they absorbed six defeats after leading by at least four runs, compared with five such setbacks in 2014-15 combined.
Melancon, 31, inherits the responsibility of curing these ills. A three-time All-Star, he has pitched for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals since 2009. San Francisco tried to obtain Melancon from Pittsburgh at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Washington gained his services instead.
Melancon has recorded 168 career saves, reaching a personal best with a Major League-leading 51 in 2015 with Pittsburgh. He has converted 98 of 104 save opportunities in the past two seasons and is coming off a solid 2016 campaign in which he recorded a 1.64 ERA and 47 saves in 51 chances over 75 games.
Melancon's capable of relying on strikeouts, a closer's best friend, though he's not exceedingly overpowering. His 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016 matched his career average. That represented an improvement from 2014, when he averaged 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
Chris Haft /

Comments are closed.