MLB Trade Deadline: Giants trade Mark Melancon to the Braves

In a flurry of moves leading up to the MLB trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants dealt a handful of their bullpen pieces. Mark Melancon ended up traded to the Atlanta Braves.

The San Francisco Giants kicked off MLB trade deadline day by sending a pair of relievers to the Milwaukee Brewers for middle infielder Mauricio Dubon.

There was a lot to unpack in that deal, with starter-turned-reliever Drew Pomeranz and hard-throwing prospect Ray Black heading to Milwaukee and the Giants seemingly finding a replacement for Joe Panik in the form of Dubon.

There was no time to digest that move, though, before Jeff Passan of ESPN dropped a pair of tweets reporting that the Giants had made another move:

Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

The Giants signed Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal before the 2017 season in hopes that he could be a stabilizing force at the back of the bullpen.

We all remember that year. It was the last time the Giants made the playoffs, and if it wasn’t for a historically bad bullpen, they may have prevented the Chicago Cubs from winning the World Series.

Melancon had been one of the most consistent closers in baseball from 2013 to 2016, and alongside recent trade acquisition Will Smith, he was supposed to lock down the only glaring hole on the San Francisco roster.

It took him all of one game in a Giants uniform to blow his first save, setting the tone for an ugly 2017 season. In 2018, Melancon rebounded to be a solid, albeit expensive, middle relief option.

This year, the veteran right-hander has shown flashes of his past dominance, but he continues to look more like a solid seventh-inning option than a lockdown closer. Over 46.1 innings, he has a 3.50 ERA and has shown solid peripherals with a 3.33 FIP.

The Atlanta Braves bullpen has been a big issue all season. They acquired Detroit Tigers closer Shane Greene earlier today, and Melancon will give them another solid option. He’s no stud, but he’s an effective pitcher.

By the way, who would have thought that Will Smith would still be on the Giants by the time Mark Melancon left?

Melancon agreed to waive his full no-trade clause to join Atlanta, and in a surprising development from the Giants side, the Braves are taking on the remainder of his contract:

Not only are the Giants saving a lot of money, but they are also getting a legitimate prospect back for him.

Tristan Beck was one of the better college arms in the 2018 draft and the Braves signed him to an above-slot bonus as a fourth-round pick. He’s been slowed by injuries since starting his pro career, but most pundits still ranked him among Atlanta’s top 20 prospects. I’m a bit lower on Beck than the consensus, but would still slot him as San Francisco’s No. 21 prospect, right behind Connor Menez and right ahead of Franklin Labour.

Beck’s fastball sits around 92 mph, but his curveball has looked like a plus pitch since high school. He turned 23 in May and has a 5.65 ERA at High-A, but it’s worth keeping in mind his peripherals (9.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 3.07 FIP, and 2.93 xFIP) suggest he’s actually done quite well.

Daniel Winkler is also an interesting depth arm. He’s a 29-year-old reliever who has thrown just over 100 innings at the MLB level. This year, he was demoted to Triple-A after struggling to a 4.98 ERA and he has walked over a batter an inning since his demotion.

However, for the most part, he has been effective in his MLB career with 10.3 K/9 to go along with a 3.68 ERA and 3.65 FIP.

Winkler’s fastball sits in the low-90s, but he has a spin-rate that ranks in the 94th percentile of the league. His curve also has an above-average spin-rate and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get some late-season innings in the MLB bullpen.

Trade Grades

San Francisco Giants: A
Atlanta Braves: B-

The fact that the Giants unloaded all of Melancon’s contract at the MLB trade deadline and managed to acquire legitimate value is frankly shocking. The Braves have plenty of money to spend, so they’re in a better position to take on Melancon’s contract than most teams, but it’s still surprising.

Melancon should give Atlanta a solid back-end reliever for the rest of 2019 and 2020 and they can afford to give up pitching prospects given their system’s depth. It’s not a great value move on their part, but they upgraded an area of need without giving up a top prospect.

For a San Francisco Giants team with a ton of money still on the books for the upcoming seasons, finding a way to unload Mark Melancon’s contract at the MLB trade deadline was a major win. The return was just a bonus.