Starting the season as a strength of the team, the Yankees bullpen felt anything but as the season wore on. Depleted by injuries and inconsistent performances, the Yankees will be looking for ways to bolster the bullpen heading into the 2021 season. Mark Melancon is one of the more accomplished arms on the free agent market and could be an option for the Yankees as they look to strengthen their bullpen.
Originally drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 2006 draft, Mark Melancon rose through the Yankees system, making his major league debut with the team in 2009. He was traded to Houston in 2010 as part of the deal that brought Lance Berkman to the Bronx. Several more trades followed before he settled in with Pittsburgh, becoming one of the better closers in baseball for a stretch.
Melancon was part of multiple playoff teams in Pittsburgh, peaking with a 51 save season in 2015. Many of those saves were in support of then-Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. In total, Melancon has saved 205 games in his career, including 11 this past season for the National League East division champion Atlanta Braves.
The Yankees are obviously set at closer, but Melancon has recent experience working outside of the closer role. When he first moved to the Braves at the 2019 trade deadline, he pitched a number of times in the middle of the games. Melancon has the potential to become a weapon that Aaron Boone can utilize anytime from the fifth inning on should he join the team.
Melancon is a ground ball machine, keeping the ball on the ground 56% of the time for his career, but saw his ground ball rate peak as high as 62% during the 2019 season. Melancon is not a big strikeout pitcher but knows how to limit hard contact, and would pair well with Zack Britton as the Yankees attempt to keep the ball away from the short porch.
The righty attacks hitters almost exclusively with a cutter and curveball. He used the cutter 55% of the time in 2020 while using the curve 39% of the time. He flashes a split-finger change up and a four-seam fastball both around 3% of the time, but they are not a main part of his arsenal.
Melancon brings a wealth of postseason experience for a team in need of a deep October run. In 20 games he has posted a 3.72 ERA, with five saves. In 2020 he allowed one unearned run in 6.1 innings while helping the Braves to the brink of the World Series.
The Yankees will not have Tommy Kahnle next season, and Melancon is the type of arm that could lengthen the bullpen and help get to Britton and Chapman in the late innings. He is also a good insurance policy if Adam Ottavino does not bounce back from his struggles. Predictions on what his contract will be are all over the place, varying from MLB Trade Rumors’ prediction of just one year and $4 million to FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards setting two years for $22 million as his value. If the market is closer to the MLB Trade Rumors number, then the Yankees will likely be in play.
Mark Melancon is a solid free agent option for the Yankees as they look to improve their bullpen. He keeps the ball on the ground and has experience in numerous roles from the bullpen. If his number is in the Yankees’ range, then he may be on his way to a reunion with the team that drafted him.