The San Diego Padres will make several decisions this winter.
The play of the team to end 2021 was not acceptable, and there is no doubt that A.J. Preller will make adjustments to the roster.
One move, in particular, is potentially bringing back Mark Melancon, who has a mutual option year for the 2022 season. The $5 million option for the 2022 season is a no-brainer for the Padres, but you must believe that Melancon and his representatives will balk at the idea.
That leaves the two sides at a crossroads.
Melancon is currently leading all of major league baseball in saves at 38. The right-handed pitcher is enjoying one of the best seasons in his 13-year career. The 2021 All-Star is 4-3 with a 2.26 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP in his 63.2 innings pitched. Melancon signed a very team-friendly contract in the winter where he made $2 million for the Padres in 2021. This is after signing a 4-year/$62-million deal with Giants after the 2016 season.
He will want to be paid fair market value. Can the Padres afford to pay that?
I know, I know. We are talking about a new Padres era—a time when the franchise actually spends money. However, when you invest over $600 million on two players, you have to save money somewhere. Especially when a handful of players are underperforming and not living up to what they are being paid. Traditionally, the closer position is not an area where a team spends a majority of its budget.
For the Padres, there are no internal options for the team. Drew Pomeranz is dealing with health issues. Austin Adams and Emilio Pagan both failed to show consistency this year. There is talk that Dinelson Lamet could fit the need, but his elbow is problematic, and he has no experience in the role. Something needs to be done to strengthen the bullpen for the upcoming season.
The Padres and A.J. Preller got a great deal with Melancon before the 2021 season. They were able to bring him aboard without breaking the bank. At this point, the Padres are about at their maximum for payroll. They will need to be thrifty in certain areas to field a competitive team. Melancon is sure to command a multiple-year deal and somewhere around the 7-8 million dollar mark at the least.
Mark Melancon will want to be paid well for his services. He deserves to be paid.
What will the Padres do?
It will take a trade or two for the team to free up space for a reunion with Melancon. This is not out of the realm of possibilities, The two sides match well and the veteran pitcher seemed to enjoy his time with the Padres in 2021. A.J. Preller will need to be creative though. After a season like he just had, Melancon will surely have suitors for his services.
The 2022 season is very important to the San Diego Padres. A healthy and successful bullpen will be vital to the goal of a championship. At 36 years of age, going on 37, Melancon is no spring chicken. But his veteran presence should be important to a team with World Series ambitions. In the end. It will all come down to cost.