Melancon drawing interest ahead of Deadline

Pirates closer enjoying another impressive season with 30 saves and 1.51 ERA

Melancon drawing interest ahead of Deadline

MILWAUKEE -- Presented with an opportunity last offseason to trade one of the game's most effective closers, the Pirates elected to keep Mark Melancon. Will they make the same decision this weekend?

Melancon is drawing interest from multiple teams heading into Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the Pirates are again at least willing to listen. Melancon will be a free agent at the end of the season, and they have a potential replacement closer in setup man Tony Watson.

Looking to shore up the back end of their bullpen, the Giants have asked the Pirates about Melancon's availability. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, the Nationals and Indians also have inquired about Melancon.

In return, according to Rosenthal, the Pirates are asking for a Major League reliever as well as prospects.

The Pirates may be emboldened by the return the Yankees received from the Cubs in exchange for two months of Aroldis Chapman. That package included top prospect Gleyber Torres, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, reliever Adam Warren and Minor League outfielder Rashad Crawford.

With the flame-throwing Chapman off the board, why not turn to the steady Melancon instead? A three-time All-Star, Melancon has posted a 1.51 ERA with 30 saves in 33 chances this season.

Trading Melancon might seem like an odd move, considering general manager Neal Huntington has said the Pirates are looking to buy, not sell. But Huntington also said the Pirates will consider subtracting from their current roster to add elsewhere -- perhaps in the rotation, where the Pirates' greatest need remains.

The Pirates don't need to trade Melancon, but by doing so, they could potentially make a forward-looking move, obtaining prospects, while not drastically damaging their chances to compete down the stretch.

Watson has been one of the Majors' best setup men over the last four years, making him the likely choice to close if Melancon is dealt. Neftali Feliz also has experience closing games in the Majors, and he's in the middle of an impressive bounce-back season. Trading Melancon would be a greater threat to the Pirates' bullpen depth, likely the reason they're reportedly asking for a seventh-inning reliever if they do trade Melancon.

Melancon has been traded three times in his career -- from New York to Houston to Boston to Pittsburgh -- and was largely unaffected by the offseason rumors. Asked recently about the idea of being traded again, Melancon took the possibility in stride.

"I'm glad I've been through it before, because it doesn't go through my mind all that much. I'm happy it doesn't, because at the end of the day, it's not up to me," Melancon said. "It's tough, because you may not want to go -- some guys may want to go -- but it's not necessarily something that's fun to go through. At the same time, there's always positives in any situation.

"I don't look at it as anything more than if they make the move, it's a business decision, and that's what I've got to do."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.