Extending Shaun Marcum

It has been reported that Brewers GM Doug Melvin is interested in signing two of his front-line pitchers, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, to contract extensions before they become free agents next off-season. This would be a big morale boost for a fanbase that will likely be going through Prince Fielder withdrawal this winter. If Fielder does leave, his $15.5 million salary coming off the books would certainly help create the flexibility to re-sign these two important parts of the organization. However, as with any long-term extension, there are plenty of risks to this plan, especially with Marcum.

Marcum was acquired from the Blue Jays in December 2010 as part of the Brewers’ “go all in for 2011” plan. He had a solid first season in Milwaukee, pitching 200.2 innings with a 3.73 FIP, both career bests. These numbers earned him 2.7 WAR, which due to the league switch and the decline in offense in 2011, was actually 0.9 WAR worse than his 2010 campaign with the Jays.

The bad news is after a dynamite first two months of the season, he was pedestrian the rest of the year and experienced some struggles with the long ball in September as he eclipsed the 160 inning mark for just the second time in his career. As our own Jack Moore pointed out last month, Marcum moved away from his go-to pitch, the change-up, down the stretch. As Jack concludes, we can’t know for certain what the reason is behind this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worrisome.

What makes this blip especially troublesome is that Marcum has never been the perfect picture of health – his first season with over 160 innings pitched was at age 28 – and he is only two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery. Additionally, one of the knocks on him in Toronto was that he wasn’t the most dedicated to conditioning and keeping his arm in shape.

This information paints a troubling picture, and although his 6.3 WAR over the last two seasons warrants a multi-year extension, my palms would be sweating if I were the person putting my stamp of approval on that contract.

Let’s take a quick look at what a hypothetical extension might look like based on performance. Marcum is turning 30 next month, and despite limited MLB mileage on his arm, is likely on the downward sloping portion of his career. Bill James projections has his 2012 production at 207 innings with a 4.01 FIP. I am a little more bearish due to his post-TJ results, so let’s peg him at 2.5 WAR for next season, and go from there. I project a standard 0.5 WAR decline each season, with 5% inflation. One thing to note is that since an extension would buy out his last year of arbitration, I multiplied his 2012 salary buy 0.8 in accordance with the 40/60/80 hypothesis. The ensuing $10 million figure is probably still high, as he is more or less a two-year arbitration player after re-signing for $0.85 million in his first year of eligibility due to injury.

According to this simple projection, which I believe is a better-case scenario, the best fit would be a three-year deal in the $30 million range, and is actually quite in line with what the market dictated last off-season. Ted Lilly received a three-year, $33 million pact from the Dodgers. While Marcum will be four years younger, Lilly has a much longer track record of health and consistency. They are both soft-tossers who have seriously out-performed their fielding independent numbers due to low BABIPs – .270 career for Lilly and .269 for Marcum. In his two years prior to free agency, Lilly accumulated 5.8 WAR to Marcum’s 6.3.

Jorge de la Rosa is another guy in that range, as he signed for $1 million less than Lilly. He was coming off an injury-shortened 2010 campaign at age 30, but still managed to accumulate 5.7 WAR in 2009 and 2010. When accounting for the arbitration discount, the above Marcum contract would be in line with what these two pitchers received, and more than Carl Pavano and Jake Westbrook, who both received 2 year/$16.5 million deals. It sounds like we are in the right ballpark.

I’m not 100% writing off a Fielder return, but it essentially boils down to if Melvin believes the Brewers can still compete for a championship with a core consisting of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Yovani Gallardo, Greinke and Marcum. It may be in their best interest to go with a one-year deal, as it allows them to cut bait if Marcum gets hurt, or trade him at the deadline if the Brewers aren’t serious contenders – which would provide a much needed boost to the farm system.

While a $30 million contract isn’t the end of the world, it is still a lot of money for a mid-market team to guarantee a 30-year-old pitcher with an injury history whose average fastball velocity was sitting under 86 MPH in 6-7 starts last season. While the extension of a currently solid pitcher like Marcum would dampen the blow of a potential Fielder defection, there is a lot of downside. The Brewers would probably be better off isolating themselves from that risk with a one-year deal. It’s also unlikely that his price tag will go up over the course of the season, especially with guys like Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez, John Danks and Greinke looming as fellow 2013 free agents.



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Member
manuscript
4 years 6 months ago

really like the point you make in the final paragraph. no reason to rush to pay marcum. as a brewer fan, i see him as an interesting piece – potentially valuable all year or great asset for a trade deadline flip. but i think one key facet that will allow the brewers to feel comfortable not extending marcum will be extending greinke.

ecp
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ecp
4 years 6 months ago

Problem is, knowing Greinke and his history, I wouldn’t expect him to be interested in an extension now if Fielder leaves. Not to say he wouldn’t re-sign with the Brewers, but he’ll wait until after next season; he won’t do it now.

Colin
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Colin
4 years 6 months ago

How much does giving up Lawrie hurt right now for the Crew….ouch!

Hindsight, but still it hurts.

JSprech
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JSprech
4 years 6 months ago

I’m really sick of people second guessing the Lawrie trade. The Brewers likely would never have gotten Greinke to waive his no-trade clause had they not first traded for Marcum. Also, Marcum pitched lights-out at the beginning of the year while Greinke was injured and Gallardo/Axford were giving up lots of runs.
Without Marcum, the 2011 season could have gone a lot differently for the Brewers. Whether or not Lawrie develops into an All-Star or otherwise, Marcum was essential to the success of the team even if he did fold up at the end.

Colin
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Colin
4 years 6 months ago

Said that more on the back of Lawrie’s emergence than Marcum’s performance.

JSprech
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JSprech
4 years 6 months ago

I agree that seeing Lawrie’s break out might lead to the conclusion that the brewers got the short end of the stick … but then again if Casey McGehee hadn’t fallen off the deep end, the Brewers wouldn’t look so enviously at Lawrie.

grandbranyan
Member
grandbranyan
4 years 6 months ago

I’m really curious if Melvin would’ve offered Jack Z Lawrie for Pineda before the season how that conversation would have gone. Both were high upside prospects with some question marks coming into the season who exceeded expectations this year.

JSprech
Guest
JSprech
4 years 6 months ago

I don’t think any of us can really get into Doug Melvin’s head, but I’m guessing he wanted to trade for an established commodity (i.e. Shaun Marcum) rather than a prospect- the “let’s win this year” approach.

kyle
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kyle
4 years 6 months ago

Really hope tha Grienke it Hamels or both make it to FA. Would make things much be more interesting next year

tdotsports1
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4 years 6 months ago

Brett Lawrie produced an indentical 2.7 WAR in under 50 games for the Jays.

After watching the Cards/Rangers lean so heavily on relievers assuming the Brewers make the playoffs without Marcum (or at least don’t give up Lawrie to acquire a pitcher of his ilk) I think Lawrie would have helped the Brewers a heck of a lot more in the postseason.

Maybe the Brew Crew would have even called up Lawrie earlier than the Jays also considering they were in “all-in” mode and that 2.7 WAR for 40 games could have been in the 4-6 range given 500-600 PAs.

Marcum is a decent arm but that was a great trade/steal by AA when considering they already got the same value from Lawrie and the future career paths are clearly going to favour the younger hitter.

Eric
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Eric
4 years 6 months ago

and we fail to stay on topic, again.

Jays2010
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Jays2010
4 years 6 months ago

While a Marcum extension can be discussed without Lawrie, there is one angle where the trade has relevance: does the fact that Melvin gave up a young, controllable potential all star for Marcum increase the urgency to sign him to an extension?

In other words, could Melvin feel more pressure to have Marcum in the fold for a few years to save face on a trade he admitted on a Toronto radio station that the Blue Jays have likely already won? Self-preservation is job one for a GM and my best guess is that he extends Marcum for 3-4 years.

Marcum is a nice pitcher and an extension with him may very well be more realistic than with Greinke. $6-7 million in arbitration for 2012 and maybe two more years at $8-10 million with a team option might be enough for a guy without pedigree or stuff who has never made big money in his career.

3 years and around $25 million with a team option for $10 million seems reasonable for Marcum and the team. Personally, I would wait because I doubt the cost is going up significantly with another Marcum-like year in 2012.

tdotsports1
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

how can you not mention Brett Lawrie?

Eric
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Eric
4 years 6 months ago

Because I’m sick and tired of all the gloating. And I say this as a Jays fan.

Jimbo
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Jimbo
4 years 6 months ago

Sorry to add to the Lawrie discussion. But there’s one related point about Grienke I want to make… Before acquiring Marcum, and committing to hold onto Fielder in 2011, Grienke said that he would not have accepted a trade to the Brewers. They were on his no trade list. When he saw that the Brewers were serious about competing, he agreed to a trade to the Brewers. Adding Marcum has been said to be a big part that.

The Brewers fell 2 games short of their world series in 29 years, and made their first LCS since then. If you look at Marcum for Lawrie in a vacuum it was a bad trade. But considering other things, I think it was a fine trade even if Lawrie becomes a HOFer. Obviously it was a big risk but worth the gamble.

Ryan
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

“Additionally, one of the knocks on him in Toronto was that he wasn’t the most dedicated to conditioning and keeping his arm in shape.”

Really? I never heard anything about that. He’s never been a durable workhorse kind of pitcher, but I hadn’t seen anyone connecting that to a lack of conditioning. Any sources?

GWizzle
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GWizzle
4 years 6 months ago

If it’s true that Grienke wouldn’t have came if it wasn’t for the Lawrie-Marcum deal then it was a good trade for the Brew. Grienke is a frontline stud and will win a Cy Young in the NL. Marcum was a nice addition to a rotation that would have floundered without him during the regular season. I agree that Marcum is in for a decline with an 86 mph fb and a generous babip. An extension beyond 3 years seems irresponsible by Milwaukee. Maybe 3/25mil with a club opt would be reasonable. Or take your compensation when he hits free agency and improve your depleted farm system.

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