14 Reasons to Like the Marcum Deal

May 18, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Toronto Blue Jays Shaun Marcum pitches against the Minnesota Twins at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 in Toronto, Canada...Toronto won 11-2 over Minnesota..Photo Credit: C.J LaFrance/ZumaPress.

After taking the night to sleep on the Brett Lawrie-Shaun Marcum swap, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like the deal. In fact, I was able to come up with 14 reasons why I like the deal:

1. Marcum’s ERA/FIP/xFIP in the brutal AL East? 3.64/3.74/3.90. I’m not so sure even Yovani Gallardo could put up numbers like that with so many starts against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays.

2. As Dave Cameron of FanGraphs noted last night, in 2010 Marcum averaged more strikeouts per 9 innings (7.60 to 7.40) and less walks per 9 innings (1.98 to 2.25) than everyone’s favorite trade target this winter, Zack Greinke. That’s pretty damn good.

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3. That 1.98 BB/9 would have been the lowest walk rate on the team in 2010, and it wouldn’t even be close. Even if he falls back to his career average of 2.80, he’d still have the lowest walk rate among Brewers starters. What drove us nuts about this pitching staff last year more than anything? Walks. The team finally has a starter that won’t drive up his pitch count by walking the bases loaded. This is a good thing.

4. His 3.5 fWAR would have ranked second on the team, behind Gallardo (4.6) and ahead of John Axford (2.0). Even his injury-shortened 2008 season would have been tied for second on last year’s team.

5. Yes, his fastball leaves a bit to be desired at just 87.1 MPH in 2010, but he only threw it 45.1% of the time…and that’s the most he’s thrown his fastball since 2006. In total, he has 5 pitches he can throw at any given time, and all but his fastball have been either around average or above average during his career.

6. Sweet merciful crap is that changeup nasty. At 26 runs above average last season, it was the best changeup in the game, and nearly 8 runs better than the second best changeup, belonging to Felix Hernandez. The fact that his changeup is so effective despite the lack in fastball velocity is even more impressive.

7. While 2010 was his breakout year, his career numbers in the East are still impressive — in 592 innings, he posted an ERA of 3.85, a FIP of 4.46, and an xFIP of 4.30. His career ERA+ of 112 shows he’s been a very good #3 in the AL, likely making him a very good #2 in the NL.

8. Marcum is in his second arbitration-eligible winter, avoiding arby last year with a one year, $850k deal. Even with the strong year, he probably shouldn’t make much more than $4 or $5 million. I’d take Marcum at that price over past offseason flops like Doug Davis or Braden Looper.

9. Even though he only has two years of team control remaining, he’s from the Midwest and it appears he’d be open to an extension. The past injury history makes a possible extension a risk and probably something that shouldn’t be addressed until next winter, but there’s no reason to think that the Brewers are giving Lawrie away for a two-year stopgap.

10. Slotting Marcum in behind Yovani Gallardo has a ripple effect on the rest of the rotation. Instead of depending on Randy Wolf to put up the numbers of a #2 starter — highly unlikely, even to the most optimistic people — the Brewers can slot him at #3, where he’s a much better fit. Chris Narveson becomes a #4, also more in line with his production (in fact, if he pitches like he did last year, he’d actually be a pretty damn good #4). That leaves the 5th spot open as of now, and if the Brewers add another pitcher this offseason, that bumps the back end down another spot. Even if they don’t a 1-2 of Gallardo-Marcum might end up being the second best duo in the division.

11. The Brewers added a major league pitcher without having to give up a minor league pitcher. When Tom Haudricourt first reported that he was hearing minor league pitchers (plural) were headed to the Jays, I think we all panicked a little that they were giving up guys like Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Heckathorn, or Cody Scarpetta — guys the team still has hope for as starters. Usually when teams trade away a big league starter, they’ll want a minor league arm in return. Since the Jays have plenty of pitching and are actually lacking bats in the minors, this makes sense for both sides.

12. While it does stink to lose a bat like Lawrie’s, he’s already flamed out at one defensive position where the bat would have been a major plus (catcher) and appears to be on his way out of a second position (second base). While he’s drawing Dan Uggla comparisions at second, he’s not nearly as valuable in the outfield or first base, where a lot of scouts seem to think he’ll end up. Toronto can at least afford to DH him if all else fails, but he’s not a sure thing by any stretch. Like Matt LaPorta, who the Brewers dealt away for CC Sabathia, there are some concerns about his lack of patience at the plate (only a 7.7% BB%) and his strikeouts (21.3% K% last season). Like LaPorta, there are even some character issues, if you want to worry about him declining to play in the Arizona Fall League because he just didn’t feel like it.

13. Trading for Marcum seems to indicate that Prince Fielder will be on the team to start 2011, but in the event that Melvin wants to move the big man, there’s no longer the pressure to get big league pitching back in return. I mentioned this the other day in the post about the Adrian Gonzalez trade, but the chances of Melvin getting a fair return for Fielder increase dramatically if he’s just willing to take the best overall package instead of just looking for pitching. If he’s willing to move off that demand, he should be able to find a buyer that makes it worth his while, even if he waits until July.

14. The Brewers will have two first round picks in the draft next year, and if Trevor Hoffman signs a major league deal somewhere, they’ll essentially get a third in the form of a sandwich round pick. It’s generally regarded to be a loaded draft, and given the team’s success in at least finding hitting prospects in the draft, I feel good about their chances to replace Lawrie in the farm system even if Melvin doesn’t trade Fielder.

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