Given where the market was expected to go, few could have foreseen the price the Washington Nationals paid to acquire Mark Melancon. In exchange for the three-time All-Star, the Nationals sent the Pittsburgh Pirates a major-league reliever in Felipe Rivero and a solid, but unheralded prospect in Taylor Hearn, a package much smaller in terms of quantity and quality than many expected.
Most media reports over the last week would have led you to believe that the Nationals would surrender much more. And while some of those stories may have stretched the bounds of a legitimate trade package—Lucas Giolito wasn’t, and isn’t, going to be traded for a reliever—they foresaw scenarios far bolder than the one that took place.
To be clear, the Nationals are not giving up small change. Rivero has emerged as a bona fide late-inning relief option, and possesses the stuff of a future closer. Hearn, meanwhile, is something of a wildcard, and a pitcher that is not unlike the player he joins in the deal.
Like Rivero, Hearn possesses a mid-90’s fastball that is capable of touching 100 mph. The Nationals intended to develop him as a starter this year at Low-A Hagerstown, but the southpaw suffered a foot fracture in his second outing, which led to a change of plans. Upon returning from the injury on July 4, Hearn was moved to the bullpen, where he was likely to remain for the rest of this season.
At 21, Hearn is a pitcher the Pirates can work with over the next few seasons. Either they leave him in the bullpen, or allow him to return to the rotation and iron out his change up and slider combination. The Pirates are one of a handful of organizations seemingly capable of getting the most from Hearn, but it will take some time.
Given that returns for pitchers similar or slightly better than Melancon were expected to be much higher, the Nationals did a solid job in this trade. They kept their high-ceiling, close-to-major-league-ready arms while moving just one piece from their major league roster. Melancon — who just earned his third All-Star appearance — is far more capable of preserving tight leads in the final inning than any of the Nationals’ current pitchers, and gives manager Dusty Baker some options in how he uses his other arms.
This is unlikely to amount to an all-out heist on the part of the Nationals, but it is a trade that the team can be more than satisfied with.Tags: Felipe Rivero, Mark Melancon, Nationals, Nats, Taylor Hearn, Washington Nationals