For the second trade deadline in a row, the Washington Nationals have struck a deal to bolster the back end of their bullpen. After acquiring Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies on July 28 of last season, the club announced on Saturday that it had picked up Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for left-handed pitchers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.
After posting a dreadful 6.20 ERA in 41 games with the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Melancon was dealt to Pittsburgh as part of the six-player deal that sent now-cult hero Brock Holt to Boston. In three-plus seasons with the Pirates since that trade, Melancon has registered a minuscule 1.80 ERA over 260.1 innings, notching 130 saves — the third-most in MLB since the beginning of 2013.
The 31-year-old right-hander is having another banner year in 2016 despite the Pirates’ relative struggle, posting a 1.51 ERA and 2.66 FIP with 30 saves to his name. In 41.2 innings, Melancon has struck out 38 batters, walked nine, and allowed just two home runs.
The package coming back to Pittsburgh is headlined by hard-throwing southpaw Felipe Rivero, who’s worked to the tune of a 4.53 ERA over 49.2 innings this season. While the ERA is unimpressive, Rivero’s 3.26 FIP paints a better picture of his season, thanks to his impressive 26.1 percent strikeout rate and modest 0.72 HR/9. With a live three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, changeup) from the left side, Rivero has the tools to become a good relief arm down the line for the Pirates.
Also included in the deal was the Nationals’ #27 prospect (according to MLB Pipeline) Taylor Hearn. In 29 innings split between the Rookie GCL Nationals and Class-A Hagerstown Suns, Hearn has posted a 2.79 ERA and struck out 32.0 percent of batters while walking 10.7 percent (2.99 K/BB). While the walk rate is high, he’s brought it down to 7.2 percent over his 22.2 innings at Hagerstown after walking six in 6.1 innings in the GCL. While Hearn is somewhat older — he turns 22 on August 30 — than you’d expect a real “prospect” to be at Class-A, his live left arm and large frame (6-5, 210) make him an interesting piece going back to Pittsburgh.