The San Francisco Giants’ disastrous season somehow managed to get worse. Mark Melancon, the closer they signed for $62 million last winter, will undergo a rare surgery to correct a muscular issue in his pitching forearm, according to the Mercury News.
Melancon will have surgery to alleviate chronic exertional compartment syndrome. It’s a muscle and nerve condition that is typically rare, but has a higher chance of occurring in athletes who put certain muscles through repetitive workouts. Once Melancon has surgery, he’s expected to miss two to three months.
As of right now, it’s unclear when that will happen. The 32-year-old Melancon is planning to pitch through the issue for the rest of the season, but admitted he’s day-to-day. If the pain becomes to much to bear, or if he struggles to recover after outings, Melancon will have the surgery sooner. He will try to put off the procedure until the offseason.
Melancon has put up disappointing numbers in his first year with the Giants. In 28 1/3 innings, he’s posted a 4.13 ERA, his highest total since 2012. In the four seasons prior to 2017, Melancon averaged a 1.80 ERA.
There’s some hope he can return to that level once he has surgery. As the Mercury News notes, former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse had the same procedure in 2010. He was able to return, and put up four consecutive seasons with strong numbers. The article also mentions Noah Lowry as a negative comparison, though notes that he underwent a number of surgeries that may have impacted his career.
Melancon said he’s experienced these symptoms in the past, but the issue typically went away in a few weeks. That wasn’t the case this season, and an MRI revealed the condition.
The Giants hope he can return more like Lohse rather than Lowry. Melancon made just $4 million in 2017, but his salary increases as his contract continues. He’ll make $10 million in 2018. And then $14 million in both 2019 and 2020.
Melancon does have an opt-out in his deal following the 2018 season, however. If he can return to form next season, he could exercise that clause and hit free agency looking for a better deal. That seems unlikely given his struggles this year — and the volatility of relievers in general — but it’s not out of the question.
At this point, that may be for the best for both sides. Melancon didn’t get off on the right foot in San Francisco, blowing his first save opportunity during the club’s opener. He was subject to rumors about altering the team’s stretching habits as well. Melancon poked fun at that by choosing the nickname “Stretch” as part of Players Weekend.
He’s also not necessary on a club that may no longer be good. The Giants were one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season. Many expected them to contend for another World Series title. Instead, they have one of the worst records in baseball. Yes, Madison Bumgarner was hurt for a large portion of the year, but his absence shouldn’t have led to this drastic a result.
Either way, Melancon returning to form would be the best outcome. He can either help the Giants get back into contention, or pitch well enough to opt-out and look for a new deal. His first year in San Francisco may not have gone well, but Melancon still has a chance to live up to his contract if he can return from surgery without any complications.
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