Cincinnati Reds: Why Mark Melancon would be a sneaky-good addition

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 07: Mark Melancon #36 of the Atlanta Braves delivers a pitch during the ninth inning. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 07: Mark Melancon #36 of the Atlanta Braves delivers a pitch during the ninth inning. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Additions to the Reds relief corps cannot be overlooked this offseason.

While many fans throughout Reds Country are waiting with bated breath to see if the front office makes a run at free agent pitcher Trevor Bauer, the bullpen cannot be neglected this winter. The Cincinnati Reds relief corps ranked in the middle of the pack in the league last season and cannot afford to fall behind. Mark Melancon could be a solid addition to Cincinnati’s bullpen.

The Reds bullpen ranked second in hits allowed (152), eighth in ERA (4.53) and home runs allowed (33), and 11th in walks. Overall, Cincinnati relievers were solid, but unspectacular. The Reds bullpen is anchored by the likes of Amir Garrett, Raisel Iglesias, and Lucas Sims.

It’s debatable as to whether or not former Arizona Diamondbacks closer Archie Bradley will return. His salary is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to be in the neighborhood of $4.3M-$5.7M next season. There’s also the real possibility that Michael Lorenzen lands a spot in the starting rotation. That would leave a gaping hole in Cincinnati’s bullpen.

Sure, the Cincinnati Reds could promote from within. We saw what Tejay Antone was capable of last season. The right-hander, while failing to earn his first major league win, put up a respectable 2.80 ERA in 13 appearances, including nine out of the Reds bullpen. As a reliever, Antone posted a 1.89 ERA and struck out 27 batters over 19 innings.

However, Mark Melancon would bring a veteran presence to a Cincinnati bullpen void of any experienced leadership. The Reds have added veteran relievers each of the past two offseason, and they’ve failed to work out. Both Zach Duke and Pedro Strop were released in-season and Jared Hughes was traded during the 2019 season.

Melancon would bring a similar makeup to that of Hughes, who was among Cincinnati’s best relievers in 2018. Melancon is a ground ball pitcher with a 59.4% ground ball-rate last season with the Braves. During his last full season in the bigs, Melancon put up a 62.1% ground ball-rate while splitting time between the Braves San Francisco Giants.

Mark Melancon is not an overpowering pitcher, averaging just above 90-MPH with his fastball. But Melancon, who relies heavily on his cutter, offers a wicked curveball as his secondary pitch and misses a lot of bats.

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Melancon is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to take home a one-year contract worth $4M. That’s certainly in the Cincinnati Reds price range. While so much of the offseason focus is on retaining Trevor Bauer and addressing the offensive shortcomings, adding a few pieces to the bullpen cannot fall off Nick Krall’s radar.