Boy, did the Atlanta Braves miss Mark Melancon this year. They could’ve had him for $3 million but that’s their loss. The Padres ended up signing the veteran reliever for that same amount of money and he was a bargain.
Yes, there were times where he made Padres fans almost puke (July 17 against the Reds for example), but those were far and few between. He was arguably the best closer in baseball in 2021.
People forget that he wasn’t even a lock to be the closer going into Spring Training because Jayce Tingler was leaning towards going with the closer by committee.
Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, and Keone Kela were fine with pitching in whatever role they were put in but Melancon actually wanted to be the closer. I liked that attitude because that meant he was confident in his ability to help San Diego win games.
And he did just that.
Melancon not only led the league in saves (39) when all things were said and done but he made it to his first All-Star Game since 2016. Melancon finished with 2.1 Wins Above Replacement, which was seventh best on the roster this year. Maybe that isn’t a good thing because you’d think there should be more than six players (such as starting position players not named Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, and Trent Grisham) who are worth more wins than the closer, who doesn’t play everyday, but it’s still impressive that a $3 million reliever was worth over 2 wins.
Padres haters might want to say Melancon was an All-Star only because the team was playing well in the first half of the season, but that claim is flawed because he pitched well essentially the whole year. He only allowed four home runs all season and had an ERA under 2 in April/March, May, July, and August. Aroldis Chapman, in comparison, gave up nine homers this year for the Yankees.
Mark Melancon and the Padres have a mutual option for the 2022 season and there’s no doubt the Padres will be picking that up. It’s just a question of if Melancon will (or at least work out a new deal) when there will be other teams with plenty of money saved for the probable NL Reliever of the Year.