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Nationals acquire Pirates closer Mark Melancon

Mark Melancon
Mark Melancon led the majors with 51 saves in 2015 and has 30 saves this season.
(Gene J. Puskar)

The Washington Nationals found a reliable pitcher for the ninth inning, acquiring All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. 

Washington sent reliever Felipe Rivero and pitching prospect Taylor Hearn to the Pirates for Melancon, who supplants struggling Jonathan Papelbon as Washington’s closer. Melancon is expected to join the Nationals on Sunday for their series finale at San Francisco. 

A 31-year-old right-hander, Melancon has converted 30 of 33 saves with a 1.51 ERA this season and joins his fifth organization in eight years. He is making $9.65 million and is eligible for free agency after the World Series. 

Once considered a possible successor to Mariano Rivera when he broke into the majors with the New York Yankees in 2009, Melancon said during the All-Star break he knew a trade was possible, given his contract status. 

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The move comes as the Pirates find themselves on the fringe of the wild-card race. While General Manager Neal Huntington stressed the team remains committed to reaching the playoffs for a fourth straight season, the opportunity to deal Melancon — who led the majors with 51 saves in 2015 and had 33 in ‘14 — for two young arms with friendly long-term contracts was too good to pass up. 

Rivera is under team control through 2021 and hit 100 mph on the radar gun regularly during an extended relief appearance against the Pirates this month. If Melancon left as a free agent, Pittsburgh would have receive a high draft pick as conpensation. 

“We knew full well that holding Mark Melancon would have been a good return, but at the end of the day we felt this was a better return for us,” Huntington said. 

Athletics trade Burns to Royals for Eibner

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Outfielder Billy Burns was traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Kansas City Royals for outfield prospect Brett Eibner.

Oakland put left-hander Rich Hill (9-3, 2.25 ERA) on the 15-day DL because of a blister on a finger, a move retroactive to July 20. 

Burns, who has been playing at triple-A Nashville, hit .234 in 73 games with the Athletics. Eibner batted .231 with three home runs and 10 RBIs for the Royals.

Braves acquire Kemp for Olivera

The Braves acquired pricey slugger Matt Kemp and $10.5 million from San Diego for troubled outfielder Hector Olivera. Atlanta had tried for several months to deal Olivera following his April 13 arrest on domestic violence charges. He is eligible to play again in the major leagues on Tuesday following his 82-game domestic violence suspension. 

Despite arthritis in both hips, Kemp could boost the weakest offense in the major leagues. Atlanta has baseball’s worst record and ranks last in runs scored and homers. 

The Braves have just one marquee everyday player, first baseman Freddie Freeman, and need more star appeal as they move a few miles north into a new suburban ballpark next year. 

Mets put Reyes on the DL

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The New York Mets put infielder Jose Reyes on the 15-day disabled list because of a strain in his left ribcage and signed free agent Justin Ruggiano.

Reyes was injured while swinging at a pitch Tuesday. He had sat out four consecutive games since then. The Mets transferred pitcher Matt Harvey to the 60-day DL.


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