Before we start, let’s go back and visit something. Here’s what I said at the start of the offseason: ” I think LA keeps Jansen. He’s earned it. As much as I would like to think that the Nationals would keep Mark Melancon, I don’t think they are in the mood to throw money around, especially since they owe Jonathan Papelbon $3 million next year for nothing. Melancon seems like a great fit in San Francisco. They desperately need a closer, and Melancon will give them a great player on the field and off. I love Melancon in the Golden State. So where does Chapman end up? Honestly, I don’t know. My gut feels like he goes back to New York, since they’ve already reached out.”
AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK.
Kenley Jansen signed a 5-year, $80 million dollar deal to remain with the Los Angeles Trolley Dodgers. That makes him the second highest paid closer of all-time, right behind Aroldis Chapman and just in front of Mark Melancon.
The year of the closer has come to an end. The three top closers in the game have signed long term deals each one more impressive than the next, and because of that I thought it would be nice to take an in depth look at all three. So let’s start with the Giants signing of Mark Melancon.
Melancon signed first, breaking the previous record for largest reliever contract with his 4-year, $62 million dollar deal with San Francisco. The Giants were the biggest disappointment of the 2016 season. I know it’s difficult to hear someone say the word “disappointment” when it comes to a playoff team, but lest we forget that the Giants were poised to make a historic run to the playoffs at the All Star Break.
This is when the wheels fell off, and then the wagon broke apart, and then some how lit on fire and then a dog peed on it, but still some how managed to get to the playoffs. The Giants willed themselves into October despite having a bullpen that was a legitimate dumpster fire. How much of a dumpster fire? Well, halfway through the season, the Giants owned a 6.5 game lead over Los Angeles in the NL West, and were 3 games ahead of the Cubs, Nationals and Rangers for best record in the MLB. The Giants had such a good first half that they went 30-42 in the second half and still made the playoffs. Talk about a collapse.
This is also a team that was set to spend $76 million dollars on it’s seven starters in 2016. They only bothered to spend $24 million on relievers, or the equivalent of Buster Posey’s 2016 salary plus $3 million. They Giants went out in 2015 and signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzjia, both incredible signings, and then went out and traded for Matt Moore, who came through multiple times for the Giants in 2016. They looked at the struggling Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, and wanted to bolster the guys around Madison Bumgarner. The forgot about the other two or three innings after a starter comes out of the game. It’s no wonder Cueto and Bumgarner lead the league in Complete Games, I mean, would you want to hand the ball to a guy who has a 50/50 shot of losing the game for you. No, you wouldn’t, and Melancon is the perfect guy to remedy that problem.
In his career, Melancon has completed 168 saves in the 191 save situations he’s ever been in. 87.9% of the time that Melancon comes in and can get a save, he’s gets the fucking save. When you compare him to Chapman, he’s only 2% off. That’s not too shabby, especially since, Chapman just hit a huge payday with New York.
So why didn’t Melancon get an $80 million dollar payday like his other counterparts? Well, it’s a small, but visible reason; he doesn’t have the power. Of the 6,000+ pitches of Melancon’s that were tracked by PitchFx, a sum total of 0 PITCHES EVER WENT ABOVE 95MPH. Melancon is a throwback to a simpler time when Closers only had two pitches. Mark has a fastball and a nasty, NASTY Cutter. That’s it. That’s all he has. A Bartolo Colon-like Fastball and a Mariano Rivera like Cutter.
The other thing that makes Mark “The Shark” so deadly in the 9th inning is the fact that he throws both of his pitches at a pretty even rate. Aroldis Chapman throws his fastball 80% of the time, and Kenley Jansen relies on his cutter 88% of the time. However, Melancon throws his Cutter and his fastball at a 60/40 rate, tipping more in the favor of the cutter. This gives Melancon a mental advantage. It’s the same reason why Bartolo Colon has lasted 100 years, he knows where to put the ball so you can’t hit it, and he knows how to disguise his pitches, so you can’t know what’s coming until it’s in the catcher’s mitt.
Melancon’s 4-year contract with the Giants is also a very well crafted. Melancon makes $7 million in 2017, and then goes up in increments until the 2020 season. The contract also has a Full No Trade clause and also has a player opt out after the 2018 season. So were the closer market go bananas again in 2018, Melancon could capitalize on a second closer feeding frenzy.
At the end of the day, this is an incredible signing. Great numbers for both sides. San Francisco had a big problem closing games and found a guy who does that for a living. Melancon and San Fran are a match made in baseball heaven, and it can only get better from here.