(Washington Nationals)

Pirates trade Mark Melancon to Washington Nationals

The Pittsburgh Pirates dealt All-Star closer Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

The Pirates received left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league left-hander Taylor Hearn as part of the trade.

“The focus of the deal was the return we got,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. “We really like the return that we got for two months of Mark, as good as he is, as productive as he’s been, as productive as he will be for the next two months, we did like the return. We’ll look to reallocate [the savings] and if there’s something out there that makes sense for us, absolutely.”

The 31-year-old, right-handed Melancon is 1-1 with a 1.51 ERA and 30 saves in 45 appearances this season. He is a three-time All-Star with a 2.65 career ERA and 151 saves in eight seasons with the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and Pirates. He saved a league-high 51 games in 2015.

Melancon is expected to serve as the closer for the Nationals after veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon struggled to close out games in the ninth over the past week.

Papelbon was pulled in the ninth inning of Thursday's game against the San Francisco Giants and took the loss in two other games over the past week.

Papelbon, 35, is 2-4 with 19 saves this season and his ERA has ballooned to 4.41 in 35 appearances.

The Nationals made the trade five days after the Chicago Cubs bolstered their bullpen by acquiring hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees.

Rivero, 25, went 0-3 with one save and a 4.53 ERA in 47 relief appearances this season with the Nationals. He was 2-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 96 career games for Washington.

Hearn, 21, went a combined 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 10 games (four starts) between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals and Single-A Hagerstown. He was a fifth-round selection in 2015 out of Oklahoma Baptist University.

Huntington indicated that lefty Tony Watson will be the closer for the Pirates.

“[Watson] has been there waiting, so we’re going to give him the first shot,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

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