Mark Melancon Could Offer Cubs Alternative to Craig Kimbrel

The Cubs are rumored to be scouting closer Craig Kimbrel, which makes a lot of sense given their bullpen needs. He is an elite reliever who can be had for only money now that he is no longer tied to any draft-pick compensation. And if you were not already aware, the Cubs aren’t exactly bursting with reliable high-leverage relievers.

Meanwhile, they may have nearly $10 million in unexpected extra money this season as a result of Ben Zobrist’s presence on the restricted list. Players on the restricted list are typically not paid, and I cannot think of a strategic reason for the Cubs to break that precedent here. Zobrist only played only 20% of the season (32 games) and if he fails to return this season, he forfeits the remaining 80% of his $12 million salary (~$9.6 million).

The Cubs also typically keep around $10 million in reserve for mid-season acquisitions. Thus, they probably have around $20 million to sign Kimbrel this season. Per Crane Kenney, the Cubs also have extra TV money coming next season and can afford to give Kimbrel a 2-3 year deal.

Of course, Kimbrel has not pitched this season and could require a month to ramp up before he is ready to face MLB batters. I wonder, then, if a better alternative would be Giants reliever Mark Melancon.

Melancon is owed $14 million in 2019 and 2020 by the Giants, who currently sit 10 games under .500 and 16.5 games behind the streaking Dodgers. A highly-paid relief pitcher is hardly a necessity in San Francisco these days and one would think the Giants would be willing to hand him over cheap to get $28 million off the books.

Meanwhile, Melancon is having a reasonably good season, sporting a 2.41 ERA and 3.32 FIP over 22 innings. He may not be an elite closer anymore, but he is a very solid reliever who also happens to be game ready. So even with a lower upside, he could help the Cubs’ bullpen tomorrow.

The Cubs are one of only a handful of teams who would or even could take on the entirety of Melancon’s remaining contract. And with Kimbrel still unsigned, the Cubs have leverage on the Giants, who know Melancon has little trade value while the younger, better Kimbrel can be had for money alone.

All things considered, I wonder if Melancon might be a better bet to solve the Cubs’ bullpen woes.

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