The San Francisco Giants have traded the one bullpen arm that was deemed too tough to trade, dealing Mark Melancon to the Atlanta Braves ahead of the trade deadline in exchange for former Stanford pitcher Tristan Beck and reliever Daniel Winkler.
San Francisco was expected to either deal top arms like Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith to acquire prospects for an organizational rebuild, or deal from its overfull bullpen stock at the deadline to add pieces for a stretch run. With the trade of Melancon, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was able to keep the heart of the bullpen together, acquire prospects and create payroll flexibility, as the Braves will take on all of the $13.8 million left on Melancon’s contract.
Signed to a four-year, $62 million deal two seasons ago, Melancon was supposed to be San Francisco’s next dominant closer, but fell well short, in part due to performance and in part due to injury. This season, however, Melancon has gained traction as an eighth-inning man, and his fastball has ticked up in velocity while his breaking ball has become as sharp as it’s been in his career.
Melancon has a 3.50 ERA this season with 44 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings, with his lowest WHIP (1.403) since his 2016 All-Star campaign. He hadn’t allowed an earned run in his last seven outings, and since the start of July, he’s posted a 2.31 ERA with a .171 batting average against.
Winkler, a right-handed reliever, has a 3.68 ERA in five big league seasons, though he’s struggled this year with a 4.98 ERA in 27 appearances, in part due to giving up a career-high 2.1 home runs per nine innings and a career-high 20.8 fly ball percentage. He’s spent 18 games in Triple-A this season, where his fly ball percentage was way down (5.9%), but his ERA wasn’t much better — 4.86.
Winkler should benefit from spacious Oracle Park, where most of those fly balls should turn into outs.
Beck was an intriguing power arm for the Cardinal, but has struggled with injuries and owns a 5.03 ERA in the minor leagues. He has a good fastball-curveball combination, but his four-seamer has not been what it was in college. If he can get back to what he was for the Cardinal, San Francisco could get a sneaky good return in exchange for an onerous contract.
“Highly-regarded college pitcher with a four-pitch mix, good athlete,” Zaidi said. “He’s had some injury issues, but we’re hoping he can get beyond them. He’s potentially a guy who could start games for us in the next couple years.”
In a separate deal, the Giants sent left-hander Jacob Lopez to Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for outfielder Joseph McCarthy, who may wind up coming up to the big club this year.
“Joe McCarthy is just a really good all-around baseball player, can play all the outfield positions, can play first base, was a terrific college player at Virginia,” Zaidi said. “Really controls the strike zone, gives you a quality at-bat, hasn’t hit for a ton of power in the minor leagues, but he’s a really physical guy who has a lot of natural strength. Even though he’s not a lower-level ‘younger’ prospect, I think there’s still power projectsion for the physicality that he brings to the table.”