Pirates Have Scouted Korean Free Agent Closer

The Pittsburgh Pirates have scouted Seung-Hwan Oh, a right-handed closer out of Korea, according to a report linked by MLBTR (via Bucs Dugout). Oh is preparing to make the jump to the United States, and the Pirates were one of the teams listed as having seen him over the last two years, with the Yankees, Orioles, and Mariners also listed.

This situation is unlike the situation last year with Jung-ho Kang. Oh isn’t subject to the posting system, which means he could sign with any team that he wants to sign with. You’d have to wonder if Kang’s presence on the Pirates might be a big selling point to get Oh. The Pirates don’t have a closer role for him, and currently they don’t have an eighth inning role either. That said, playing with the most notable ex-KBO player in the US right now might have some appeal. His representative said that the important thing is “an environment where Oh can show his best ability.” So it’s hard to say just how much appeal Kang’s presence would have.

I’ve mentioned during the early part of the off-season that this might be a good time for the Pirates to sell high on Mark Melancon. As the MLBTR article notes, the closer market is thin this off-season. Melancon has been one of the best relievers in baseball the last three years, and would probably fetch a huge return on the trade market this off-season. The Pirates would have Tony Watson ready to step in as the closer, and if they could add Oh to the mix (and if he makes a successful jump to the US), then it would be easier to part with Melancon.

Oh is going to be 33 on Opening Day, turning 34 at mid-season. That, plus the fact that he hasn’t pitch in the majors, could keep the price down. He does have great stats in his time between the KBO and Japan, with a 1.96 ERA, a 10.7 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9. Considering the KBO is a massive hitter’s league, those numbers are pretty impressive. He can hit 97 MPH with his fastball, but usually sits 92-94, according to the MLBTR report. He also throws a slider and a slow curveball.

Here is a video of Oh.

  • I get trading Melancon, but not for prospects.

  • As of right now, I don’t think the Pirates have an NLC division winner for 2016. On that basis alone, I’m open to trading Melancon. If I really thought they were a prohibitive favorite, I say keep him.

  • I absolutely understand the need to keep refueling the minors in order to keep us winning, but at some point we need to step up to the plate and try to win it all, after two years of losing a wild card game, we need to make every effort to get ahead of the cardinals and cubs, which means we cannot trade Melancon unless we are getting back pieces we can use in 2016 for the major league club. If we trade him for prospects, i will be quite disheartened and so should everyone here

    • So because you will feel sad that they make a shrewd move we all should assume you are right?

      Melancon is a very, very good closer. Better than Hanrahan was. That doesnt make moving him for multiple prospects a bad move on its face, before even caring to see the return. Its not like anyone pondering that trade is thinking we move him for a handful of B prospects 3 years away.

      Keeping him makes sense in that you get 1 more year of a likely terrific closer. That doesnt mean moving him for a top 100 prospect and a few B prospects would be a bad deal no matter what. Both can be good moves.

      • How can you assume trading Melancon is a “shrewd move?” Trading an All-Star for prospects always has risk. Go back and look at Bay for Craig Hanson, Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss. That sure worked out long term for the Bucs. LaRoche, of the Wichita Wingnuts, was given the starting third base job and Jose Bautista was given away. IMO Moss was mishandled as badly by the Bucs as Bautista.
        This team is losing proven veteran leadership and talent due to retirements and free agency. Trading Melancon and breaking up the shutdown pair would change the makeup of this team in a fundamental way. NH acknowledged that in an interview last week when discussing Melancon’s potential salary for 2016.

        • I can go both ways. Honestly, Im not sure the return for any of the guys talked about: Melancon, Walker or Alvarez could be what everyone thinks it could be.

        • I dont really assume its shrewd i was pretty much defending it the entire post. It would inherently be a bit shrewd since it’ll be trading an elite reliever now for parts that are more geared toward sustaining success beyond next year.

          It’d be unpopular with some segments of fans, but could be a smart move depending on the return. My above point was simply that its a bit much to say right now that trading him is a bad move no matter what.

        • There’s always risk involved whether a veteran is kept or moved. NH’s job is to mitigate the risk to the best of his ability and give the organization the best chance to compete for a title each and every year.

          Those who claim Melancon must be kept and the weaknesses on the major league team need to be shored up to give the best chance to win it all next year are either short-sighted, or have no clue about financial constraints of Pirates.

          Furthermore, winning in post-season is more about having a few players get hot at the right time. Hello, who saw David Murphy turning into Babe Ruth two weeks ago?

          I say sell high and buy low and keep the team competitive for the long haul.

          • My god. There will always be folks worried about the “financial constraints” of the Pirates no matter how much they and the league are swimming in money right now.

            • Scott Kliesen
              October 20, 2015 7:38 pm

              I’m not worried about financial constraints, but I’m also a realistic fan who has a basic understanding of how the business of baseball works. You seem to think by having a disdain for Nutting’s profits, it will magically change their approach. Don’t hold your breath.

          • What financial constraints rule out keeping Melancon next year? This team from the top down said the goal was winning the division. With Burnett, Ramirez retiring, and many of the free agents moving on this team has flexibility. Blowing up the shutdown pair for prospects is not necessary.

            • Scott Kliesen
              October 21, 2015 6:02 am

              They can, and very well may, keep Melancon. The risk of doing so is greater than trading him and his salary though.

              If he’s kept it will tie up payroll dollars that could go to shore up weaknesses in the team. Furthermore, if Melancon gets injured or sees a reversal of fortunes in his performance, the Pirates will be in a bind trying to overcome it.

              Bottom line, is it’s all about keeping payroll flexibility.

      • It actually does if your goal is to win a championship, or even the division in 2016. We cannot afford, under any circumstances, to give up ANY war in 2016 unless we are trading for players who can replace that WAR in 2016, or opening up a place for players to play whom are ready to take over their role to replace that WAR. We don’t have anyone internally who can replace Melancon, and i’m assuming we would be getting prospects whom are not ready to help at the ML level. My post is specifically pointed towards that. You keep pushing towards the future and eventually you are Tampa Bay- a story of a franchise whom put together a pretty good team for a few years in a row. Great- but if our goal is to emulate a team that didn’t win a championship, it’s a pretty flawed approach.

      • If you could please, just once state your opinion without attacking someone elses thoughts or assuming you know what they are thinking, we’d all really appeciate it. Cut out the bullcrap like “so because you will feel sad that they make a shrewd move we all should assume you are right” stop it, seriously….you aren’t paid to be an jackass.

        The rest of your post is reasonable- I see your perspective, but it is contrary to what should be our goal, which is win the division and put together a team which is at least as good as this team, if not better. In no way, will trading Melancon make us better in 2016, no matter what we get back unless we get a middle of the rotation starter for him because that is really our only other team need right now, or maybe a good hitting 1 year first baseman and a back end relief arm that could pitch the 7th or 8th inning. Is that a realistic return? no- it’s not

    • I like what Chris Mueller says about finding value and bargains. Sometimes you can go to the well too many times.

    • I’m thinking of a deal where we get someone who can help now and a prospect or two…I’d be very interested in working with Washington for Ross or Cole and a relief arm and a prospect

      • If he would fetch that price- i’d be willing. The thing is- this team doesn’t need a lot, so why create holes in a team to save money when you are trying to win a championship. We need every win we can get. You trade Melancon fine- you better get someone who can take over closing duties and don’t tell me Watson, mark my words, he will fail in that role. You wanna trade walker, i’m okay with that – but what do you get back? A first base upgrade or shortstop depth to help Mercer? that’s about all we have room for on this team

  • Oh no??

    (Sorry..had to be said?)

    • Like a kicker named Blewitt

    • On the other hand, the Pirates Video operator could play a picture of Dikembe Matumbo waving his finger and have his voice booming out No! No! No! after a strikeout.

  • BuccoNation15
    October 19, 2015 8:59 pm

    Tim,

    What are the chances the Bucs actually move Melancon this off-season. Seems like the smart move but not a move Huntington will make, wasn’,t Hanrahan in his final season?

    • Traded in late December of 2012, before his final year of that deal. It’d be the same situation as trading Melancon this offseason. Very much a NH move, though Melancon is a good bit better than Hanrahan was which alters the merits of moving him slightly.

  • Like to see him from the stretch. Even Luke’s boy Cervelli couldn’t throw anyone out with that windup. Good lord.

  • Can he hit any home runs!

  • IF we get a good haul for Melancon and IF we think this guy can be a good arm, and I don’t doubt this teams evaluation of pitching, then make it happen.

    Heck even if we keep Melancon, depending on the price he could be a great Soria replacement

  • Ps- huge fan of pirates prospects

  • Tim, care to speculate what a return for melancon may look like? Or possible landing spots?

    • No clue which teams need closers. As for a return, I think it could be headlined by at least one top 100 prospect, likely in the top 50.

      • I looked at closers traded in the off-season over the last decade, and there aren’t many. On the high side was Kimbrel, who was better regarded and under contract for longer, and yielded #34 Wisler and a competitive balance pick along with some salary relief.

        Addison Reed was under control for league minimum when he was traded in Dec 2013, coming off 29- and 40- save seasons (0.8 and 1.6 WAR), to make league minimum in 2014, w/ 2015 first arbitration year.
        Traded by Whitesox to DBax for Matt Davidson, (# 88 overall)

        Jim Johnson 2013,
        coming off 2 50-save seasons (1.3 and 0.9 WAR), about to make 10M in arbitration, Traded for Jemile Weeks (Oak #5 prospect in 2010) & David Frietas (Nationals #27 prospect in 2011)

        So, it’s all over the map, but compared to these 3:
        Not as good as Kimbrel and only 1 year of control
        Better than Johnson, similar contract situation
        Better than Reed, but way more expensive and less control.

        It think a top 100 propsect would be on the low side, or depending on how much they want him possibly a top 50 and a top 100 on the high end.

        I’m fixated on the idea of them getting Trea Turner from Washington. That would really help answer the MI question and enable the trade of Walker.

        • Should be interesting with Melancon and Chapman both on the market.

        • Red Sox seem like a prime target.

          Questionable back end bullpen strength/depth and a ton of prospects/young big leaguers that they really don’t have any place to play…Cecchini, Johnson, Coyle, Marrero, Shaw plus a bunch of high upside teenagers.

          • Pat Light interests me in a deal with Boston. He wouldnt be the headliner return for Melancon but his FB+splitter make me really want to see Searage work with him. Light seems more consistent control away from being a very good late inning reliever.

            • Nice call, Luke.

              I don’t think he’s really as good as he was in ’15, but isn’t Travis Shaw exactly the kind of free, cost controlled 1B depth that the club should be looking to pair with Morse until Josh Bell is in the fold? Like Light, he’d be a secondary piece in the deal, but would be an addition to the big league club that could help immediately.

              If the Pirates could get one of the Sox extra starters after they inevitably sign/trade for an ace or two like, say, Wade Miley or Brian Johnson, plus a couple upside role players then I think that’s a trade you really have a tough time turning down.

              • I look at Boston and get greedy wanting Javier Geurra and a guy like Pat Light. Its not so deep a return that BOS feel totally gutted or anywhere near it, but we get a top 100 prospect and a guy we could throw into the back end pretty soon with quality stuff.

                BOS does have excess pitching and that move would make sense, but if we are moving the elite closer i really would put Guerra as a high priority inclusion. Defense is now rated as good at SS and his bat is coming into form with power.

                • Ha, I had my eye on that crew of Greenville kids as well. If the Pirates could get *any* of Espinosa/Kopech/Devers/Chavis/Guerra I think it would be a hell of a deal. Those guys all have far too much upside to be dealt in the Cherington administration, but Dombrowski might be more willing.

                  • I have this vision in my head of Dombro looking at his IF and feeling good enough to flip a guy like Guerra for an elite chip. He’s got a few IF prospects “above” Guerra. C’mon Dave, just do it. Ill take Guerra+Light and a throw in high risk/reward SP.

                    All of those options do entice me, im just giddy to find a legit future SS with power. I Homer Simpson drool over the though of a more consistent offensive version of Mercer.

    • I saw an article recently that Detroit is looking for a closer in the off season.

  • At least in that video he looks impressive.

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