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Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.

Dustin Pedroia going back on injured list

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Welp, that didn’t last long. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is going back on the injured list with more knee issues. If it matters the Sox say it’s not a big deal and they expect him back sooner rather than later, but they also said that his post-2017 knee surgery was just a “cleanup” at first and that basically cost him a year. So.

Pedroia has played in six games and is 2-for-20 with a walk.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Pedroia’s career may be nearing an end. Sure, he’s under contract for two more years after this season, but he’s also in a unfortunate spiral that so many players experience in their mid-to-late 30s.

Running a website like this makes it all the clearer, actually. When you search a player’s name in our CMS, you get every post in which he appears in reverse chronological order. Just about every long-tenured player ends with about six posts in which he is alternately placed on and activated from the disabled/injured list. Then an offseason link to a big feature in which he’s written about as being “at a crossroads” followed by something vague about “resuming baseball activities” and then, inevitably, the retirement announcement. I can’t count the number of guys whose careers I can tick off in that way by browsing the guts of this site.

I hope that’s not the case for Pedroia. I hope that there’s a “Pedroia wins Comeback Player of the Year” post in the future. Or at the very least a silly “Miller’s Crossing” reference in an “And that Happened” in which I say “the old man’s still an artist with the Thompson” after he peppers the ball around in some 3-for-4, two-double game. I want that stuff to happen.

It’s just that, if you watch this game long enough, you realize how unlikely that is once a player starts to break down.