Posted by Steve
I was very pleasantly surprised to hear about the Brett Lawrie-Shaun Marcum deal the other night, but only because his name hadn’t come up in any rumors–not because I didn’t expect something like this from the Brewers. This was the type of trade the Brewers needed to make. They needed a front end starter to slot behind Yovani Gallardo, and that’s what they got in Marcum.
Marcum is definitely my type of pitcher: one who very much limits his walks while still getting enough strikeouts. Some people at brewerfan were unhappy that his fastball doesn’t light up the radar gun, but that doesn’t matter when a pitcher has the command and secondary pitches of Marcum. He’s somewhat of a junkballer anyway, as he only threw his fastball 45% of the time last season. His best pitch is a nasty changeup with a lot of movement; he threw that pitch 26% of the time last year.
The bottom line is he gets results. It shouldn’t matter if a guy is throwing underhand as long as he’s getting outs, and Marcum definitely gets outs. He was a solid pitcher before getting injured, and he bounced back from missing 2009 to Tommy John surgery with his best season yet: 195 innings (pretty crazy coming off Tommy John), 3.64 ERA, 165 strikeouts, and 43 walks for a sparkling 3.84 k/bb ratio.
It’s very exciting to consider that he put up those numbers in the AL East, so it wouldn’t be unrealistic to see a slight boost in his move to the NL. It’s quite possible that he could be just as good as Yo next season. In fact, Baseball Reference’s #1 most similar player to Marcum is none other than Gallardo.
Of course, it does hurt to lose Brett Lawrie, but it’s not often a team is willing to trade its best starting pitcher. There are a few reasons why it doesn’t really kill the Brewers to lose Lawrie in this trade.
1. He’s a great bat for second base, but it’s still not clear whether he’d be able to stick at second. This is what Doug Melvin had to say: “Brett is a very talented player. He wasn’t really penciled in at second. He can play second but he’s athletic enough that we had the ability to move him to other positions, too. He can move to fit your ball club fairly quickly.” Reading through the GMSpeak, that probably means, “We’re not sure he’d be able to handle second base, and we already have plenty of options at the corners.” Lawrie should be an All-Star type player if he sticks at second, but if he has to move, he won’t be an elite player. I’ve even seen scouting reports that say he’ll need to be moved to a corner outfield spot, and if that’s the case, this deal is well worth it for the Brewers. In the past, the Brewers have cornered the market on good hitters who don’t really have a defensive position. They are probably willing to let someone else deal with those growing pains.
2. He wasn’t going to be in the majors for a year at the very least. The Brewers aren’t losing anything off their major league roster to get Marcum.
3. The Brewers are fully intent on signing Rickie Weeks long-term. Now that Lawrie is gone, getting this done is crucial. With second base shored up by Weeks, Lawrie becomes more expendable.
4. Marcum sounds open to an extension. He’s got two years left before free agency, but he was in talks with Toronto on an extension. He seems welcome to the trade, and the Brewers have also mentioned an extension. If the season starts well for him, I would not be at all surprised to see the Brewers give him a four-year deal or so.
The best part about this is since it was just a one-for-one deal, the Brewers still have ammo to trade for another pitcher if they find a favorable deal. As the team stands right now, they probably jump to a low 80s-win team. It’s encouraging to read that Doug Melvin considers this simply a first step. If they can find another pitcher at least as good as Randy Wolf, they will have as good of a shot as any team in the wide open NL Central.
This probably puts a Greinke deal to rest, but I don’t blame Doug Melvin for jumping on this. I think the Royals are poised to get a king’s ransom for Greinke, and I’m sure Melvin didn’t want to put all his eggs in that basket only to come up empty.
This is the type of creative move I wanted desperately to see from Melvin. No more free agent signings of pitchers past their prime as the main off-season acquisition. I’m also encouraged to hear the report that the Brewers would consider dealing Lorenzo Cain. Cain combined with someone like Mark Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress or even number one pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi could bring back someone comparable to Marcum. If I’m Doug Melvin, I’m looking for another trade like that over signing any other free agent. If he can pull off a comparable move, the Brewers may become favorites to win the division.