The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo has something resembling an update on Mark Melancon:
He has been available all winter in the right deal, but as time passes, it seems more and more likely that Melancon, who led the majors with 51 saves last season, will remain a Pirate. Melancon stands to make a big salary in arbitration, likely north of $10 million. Because the Pirates will again be playoff contenders, he may not be available at the trade deadline.
I don't know whether the "more and more likely" part of that is based on inside information or if it's just a bit of disguised common sense (that is, the closer we get to Spring Training, the less likely the Pirates are to trade Melancon, in the same way that a student might become less likely to answer all the questions on a test as time dwindles before she has to turn it in). But since nothing's really happened in the past several days, let's say it's the former. Hey, it's the new year, and Mark Melancon is still around! Maybe he'll stay.
We'll see. But that does seem somewhat more likely to me now than it would have been a month ago. Most teams that might consider themselves contenders currently have stable situations at closer (with the possible exception of the Mariners, and even they have two veterans with closing experience in Joaquin Benoit and Steve Cishek, plus a really interesting youngster in Tony Zych).
That isn't to say that the Pirates couldn't find a trade partner for a great reliever if they wanted to, but I doubt they're going to get anything resembling a Craig Kimbrel type of package in return at this point. Players capable of closing aren't a scarce commodity now, and the Royals imitation many teams are now doing (filling their bullpens with high-wattage arms) is beginning to feel faddish. As Brian MacPherson recently wrote, there's simply a limited number of important innings for great relievers to pitch. So there approaches a point where having Kimbrel and Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa and Carson Smith (or Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances) approaches absurdity, unless you're guessing that some combination of your relievers are going to get hurt or your starting pitching is wretched. The Red Sox, Yankees and other teams can't keep stocking up on arms indefinitely, and the ones who are trying seem to favor high-strikeout relievers anyway, which Melancon isn't.
Of course, there's still Melancon's salary to contend with, and a Pirates team that has already shed three high-salaried players this offseason (Neil Walker, Charlie Morton and Pedro Alvarez, although I debated whether to include Alvarez in that category) while adding only one (Jon Niese) might not mind if it were able to get decent talent back while removing Melancon's salary of around $10 million from its books. Now that Walker is gone, though, I do hope Melancon sticks around -- if the Bucs were going to keep one of the two, I would have liked it be the everyday player, but now that Melancon is the one left standing, I find myself rooting for the Pirates to keep him.