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Nationals trade rumors: Washington zeroing in on Mark Melancon

The Pirates’ closer could be the Nats’ answer to their faltering late inning relief.

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Nationals are digging in on some late inning bullpen help.

Pittsburgh’s closer is on his way to free agency after this season, costing $9.65 million for 2016. The Pirates, ever the frugal franchise, might be nervous about what it will take to keep him and be willing to deal. Meanwhile, teams like Washington (and also Cleveland) have been listed as interested in acquiring Melancon’s services. There are already a couple names in play as far as who the Nationals could send back in a trade.

Melancon, a 31-year-old, three-time All-Star, led the league in saves last year with 51; this season, he has a 1.51 ERA and 1.5 WAR, as well as 30 SV, in 41.2 IP.

The Nationals are not convinced, presumably, that Jonathan Papelbon can hold up the back of the bullpen all by himself. Two nights ago, he was pulled by manager Dusty Baker with two runners on and one out with a three-run lead, giving the impression that the trust just wasn’t there anymore. Melancon would go a long way in solidifying what has become a soft spot on the Nationals’ pitching staff, and could prove key as Washington nears what seems to be an inevitable playoff berth.