- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2016

OXON HILL, Md. — The Washington Nationals’ closer has gone elsewhere.

Mark Melancon signed a four-year deal with the San Francisco Giants on Monday, choosing a more lucrative contract from the Giants instead of returning to the Nationals.

Melancon was acquired by the Nationals July 30 in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon signed with San Francisco for $62 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. That sets the high-end bottom for what was expected to be an expensive upper-tier closer market. It also leaves the Nationals searching.

“We gave him an offer we felt was market value,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “You’re talking about one of the elite closers in the game. A great teammate that conducted himself perfectly as a Washington National. At the end of the day, the Giants offered him more and he took the deal. That’s what free agency’s all about.”

Left-handed Aroldis Chapman and right-handed Kenley Jansen are also free agents. Each is expected to receive more money than Melancon, who has a 1.80 ERA since 2013.

If the Nationals are not willing to pay top dollar for Chapman or Jansen, they could pursue a trade. Pitchers like the Kansas City Royals’ Wade Davis are rumored to be available. Other free agent relievers with closing experience include Sergio Romo, Greg Holland, Neftali Feliz and Santiago Casilla.

Closer options on the roster are limited. Shawn Kelley could be a choice, though the Nationals have been protective of his usage. He has had ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery (Tommy John surgery) twice. Outside of Kelley, there are minimal internal options.

Koda Glover may be the closer of the future. After roaring through Washington’s minor league system last season and being called up to the major leagues July 20, Glover struggled after a brisk start. He finished with a 5.03 ERA in 19 ⅔ innings. That makes him appear unprepared to take such a prominent spot next season.

“I’m confident and comfortable he’s going to be a good asset for the ball club,” Rizzo said. “He’s got good stuff, the right attitude. He’s got a little edge to him and a 98-mph fastball.”

Washington entered the first full day of the winter meetings at National Harbor attached to three names: Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale. Rizzo bobbed and weaved when asked about rumors and other players. Asked about an incident last season when Sale cut up his jersey and several of his teammate’s jerseys out of frustration that he was forced to wear an ill-fitting outfit for a throwback jersey promotion, Rizzo explained he does not comment on the makeup of players on another team.

In regard to McCutchen, he allowed a moderate overview.

“He’s a good player,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy that — all I know is when he’s in the batter’s box against us, he’s not a guy I want to see up there.”

The Nationals have talked to the White Sox and Pirates about prospective trades. Rizzo added that the club has spoken with multiple teams about various scenarios.

Rizzo also would not bite when asked if the Nationals have been discussing what is expected to be a massive long-term contract with Bryce Harper, who can become a free agent after the 2018 season.

According to several media reports Monday, the 2016 National League MVP is seeking baseball’s first $400 million deal.

“It’s not like us to discuss anything when we talk to players about anything,” Rizzo said. “I’m not going to answer any of those kinds of questions. Those are private discussions between us and the players.”

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