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Ask BD: On Mark Melancon, Chris Davis and Adam LaRoche

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks, everyone, for your questions. Keep them coming. Here's the first round of answers.

PedroPower: Over the last three years, the No. 1 and No. 2 relievers in MLB in terms of Win Probability Added are Mark Melancon and Tony Watson, combining for nearly 20 WPA. What reason is there to believe the Pirates can trade Melancon and replace him with Watson as closer without having a steep dropoff in WPA projection with a new closer/setup man combo?

WPA is largely a function of opportunity, and the Pirates, who allowed almost 100 runs fewer than the MLB average, frequently play close games with small leads, especially at home. That creates plenty of opportunities for their closer and setup man, whoever those players might be. That basic dynamic doesn't figure to change too much next year. I can't speak to WPA projections, because I'm not even sure if anyone's tried making them. Fangraphs' page on WPA actually notes that that season-long WPA figures aren't especially predictive.

That written, the Pirates' WPA from their closer and setup man will probably drop no matter what. Melancon and Watson combined for almost 10 WPA last year, which is ridiculous and probably won't happen again, regardless of who the Pirates trade or keep.  And actually, most indicators upon which you could base an overall projection (not WPA, not saves, but stuff like K/9 and BB/9) show that Melancon was significantly shakier this year than in either of the previous two. (Obviously, he was still very good overall.)

So the question isn't whether the Pirates can replace Melancon and Watson's WPA totals if they trade one of them. They probably can't. It's whether the 2016 version of Melancon (or Watson, I guess, but there's much less urgency there) is the right fit for the team, or whether the Pirates can get better value now and in the future by moving salary, adding talent in return, upgrading elsewhere, and looking for the next undervalued reliever. Good relievers frequently come out of nowhere, just like Melancon did, and they don't last forever. That doesn't mean they will, or should, trade Melancon. But I do think it would be smart to explore the possibility.

BenjaminPGlaser: What will be the biggest question currently facing the Pirates' offseason that, this time next year, we'll wonder why we worried about?

Whatever happens with Pedro Alvarez.

CoatsNAt: Do you think the Pirates should go after a legitimate first baseman? Do you think they should take a chance on Josh Bell or sign a proven first baseman like Chris Davis? I know Davis is expensive and risky but I feel like it’s time for them to get a good cleanup hitter in their lineup.

I'm sure everyone would love a legit cleanup guy, but the more I think about Davis, the more he worries me. He's going to require a contract well into the nine figures, he batted .196 only one season ago (with a very low BABIP, but still), he strikes out like it's his job, and he'll be 30 in March. The warning signs are visible from space, and they read "RYAN HOWARD" in flashing neon.

Those of you who enjoy calling people out on bad predictions (and I've made many), feel free to copy-paste that last paragraph into your email and blast it all over Twitter in three years when Davis has hit 200 homers for the Mariners, or whatever. Some huge home run totals are certainly possible for Davis, just as Howard's contract might have turned out much better than it did. But in general, I dislike the idea of investing in Davis long-term.

And, obviously, we're just discussing hypotheticals here. The Pirates aren't going to sign Chris Davis, and we all know it. I hate that they're preemptively out of the conversation involving expensive players. That said, I don't want them signing this particular one at what the market is likely to bear.

Chiburgh: Could the WhiteSox and Pirates match up in a trade? Convince Rick Hahn to salary dump Adam LaRoche and trade them Pedro Alvarez. The WhiteSox have some good young pitching.

I'm sure Hahn would accept Alvarez for LaRoche straight up, but only because LaRoche is set to make $13 million, and Hahn surely wouldn't be willing to throw in much in the way of young pitching. It's also questionable how much gas LaRoche has left in the tank -- he'll be 36 next month and he hit .207/.293/.340 last season. He's a defensive upgrade over Alvarez, obviously, but you could probably get Orlando Merced to come out of retirement and he'd be a defensive upgrade over Alvarez too. Who knows? Maybe LaRoche has another 25-homer season left in him. But I'd like to think the Pirates can find someone better.

PedroPower: Who produces more for the Pirates in terms of WAR in 2016, Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon?

Glasnow. He's healthy, and he's pitched better in the high minors. Taillon hasn't pitched competitively in two full years. It's way, way too early to label Taillon a bust, but there's probably going to be a learning curve next year as he reacclimates to competitive pitching.