Diamondbacks add 4-time All-Star reliever Mark Melancon on 2-year deal

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PHOENIX- The Arizona Diamondbacks made a move to solidify the back end of their bullpen, adding four-time All-Star Mark Melancon on a two-year deal worth a reported $14 million.

Now the D-backs have to get good enough to provide Melancon some games to actually save.

The right-handed Melancon, who will be 37 by opening day, led the big leagues with 39 saves last year in his only season with the San Diego Padres. He had a 4-3 record and 2.23 ERA to earn his first All-Star appearance since 2016.

Melancon’s deal also has a mutual option for 2024.

The D-backs had problems all over the roster last season, finishing with a 52-110 record, but a bad bullpen was among the worst issues. Almost all spots will be up for grabs next season, though holdovers like Joe Mantiply, J.B. Wendelken and Caleb Smith are prime candidates to relieve.

Arizona didn’t have many leads to protect last season during the ninth inning. The entire pitching staff combined for 22 saves.

Melancon said he believes that will change in a hurry. The veteran pitched against the Diamondbacks – who were division rivals with the Padres in the NL West – eight times last season and said it was a tough group to face.

“It’s tough to see it when you just look at paper, but when you’re facing these guys and trying to get them out, it’s a different story,” Melancon said. “I got to see it first hand. I’m very confident in this group.”

Melancon will almost certainly be the team’s closer. He played in college at Arizona and has 244 career saves over a well-traveled 13-year MLB career that includes time with the Pirates, Giants, Braves, Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Padres and Nationals.

“He’s a proven back end bullpen guy,” Arizona general manager Mike Hazen said. “We talked at the beginning of the offseason about wanting to rebuild our pen. It was a major issue for us last year. … Getting a guy in this spot was important for us.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.