The Marcum Trade from Toronto’s Perspective

How does a team recover from the loss of Roy Halladay? It usually involves a lot of waiting, but this wasn’t the case for the Blue Jays. In fact, it didn’t take long at all for their pitching to get back up to speed.

2009: 4.47 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 4.19 xFIP
2010: 4.23 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 4.18 xFIP

The secret of the Jays’s success came in two parts. First, they saw improvement from two of their 25-year-old starters, Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil. Second, they added a couple of arms. The first was Brandon Morrow, who, despite a middling ERA, produced excellent peripherals and improved as the season progressed. The other was Shaun Marcum, who missed the entire 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Marcum actually produced the lowest ERA, 3.64, on the staff. Yesterday the Jays traded him to the Brewers for prospect Brett Lawrie.

Jack was concise in his coverage of the Brewers’ perspective. They had a need and they filled it with a player who was potentially blocked. For the Blue Jays the trade is a bit trickier. They traded a player who could help them in 2011 for a player whose impact won’t be felt until 2012 at the earliest. That might appear to hurt their chances for contention next season, but as we saw after they lost Halladay, losing a top pitcher does not necessarily mean an overall weakened pitching staff.

With Marcum out of the picture the Jays now have a spot open at the bottom of the rotation. Romero, Cecil, Morrow, and Kyle Drabek are all pretty much penciled in, with guys such as Marc Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch, and Brad Mills competing for the final spot. Getting 30 starts from Morrow at the level of his second half performance will go a long way in upgrading the Jays’ staff. Drabek’s emergence could help push that further. But a true upgrade of that fifth start could mean even more. Might the Jays have acquired Lawrie with the idea first of moving him, and only second of having his future in Toronto?

We’ve heard for the past week or so that the Blue Jays are interested in trading for Zack Greinke, and we’ve heard that Greinke is ready to put his time in Kansas City to an end. There might be a match here, and Lawrie could be a part of that. He produced quality numbers as a 20-year-old in the AA Southern League, and figures to continue sliding up the prospect rankings. Before the 2009 season Baseball America ranked him No. 81, and before last season he moved to No. 59. He could move as high as the 30s this season. While he alone wouldn’t get a Greinke deal done, the Jays do have a number of other prospects they could send Kansas City’s way.

While Kansas City does have the top farm system in the game, they are deficient in a few areas. One of those is middle infielders. Christian Colon is the team’s best bet there, but he put up middling numbers in advanced-A ball. He is also a year older than Lawrie. By adding Lawrie, along with a number of other prospects from the Jays’ system, the Royals could even further upgrade their impending youth movement. The Jays do have a few non-Drabek pieces, including J.P. Arencibia, Zach Stewart, Travis D’Arnaud, and even Travis Snider, who could be of interest to Kansas City.

Still, it’s tough to pin a player as someone who a team plans to flip rather than keep. The Blue Jays could get plenty of use out of Lawrie themselves. They have Aaron Hill under contract only through 2011, though they do have two reasonable options on him (they won’t be able to exercise the 2014 option, since they won’t exercise all three this off-season). If he recovers they could keep him around, but if he doesn’t Lawrie could be a potential replacement. There are questions about Lawrie’s defense, though, which could ticket him for third base, a currently vacant position. He could also move to an outfield corner to complement Snider.

By trading Marcum, the Blue Jays dealt from an area of relative strength and depth to obtain a potentially useful player. Marcum could have been a useful pitcher for them in 2011 and beyond, but they have enough arms to cover for his absence. He also reached a career high in innings a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so perhaps there are health concerns on Toronto’s end. In any case, they acquired a top-50 prospect without significantly damaging its short-term hopes. If they can flip Lawrie for Greinke, they’ll be even better positioned for 2011.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

31 Responses to “The Marcum Trade from Toronto’s Perspective”

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  1. hgjghgjjh says:

    If the Jays can get Grienke without giving up Snider or Drabek, I wouldn’t be opposed. Otherwise, no thanks. (Unless of course they can agree to an extension with Grienke first…)

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    • tbr says:

      Keep dreaming.

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    • Someanalyst says:

      It’s all about Greinke. If he continues to be loud about not wanting to be in KC come spring, the Royals will lose the leverage that the relative scarcity of available top starters has given them. Clearly Greinke does not enjoy being the subject of media speculation.

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  2. mbrady16 says:

    Are we sure that Drabek will be in the season-opening rotation? He hasn’t spent any time at all in AAA yet. I though his debut was pretty good but I really figured he would get another half year in the minors at least. Zep and Brad Mills are probably decent options for 4 and 5 in the meantime.

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    • Lazerball says:

      The jays have had a tendency in recent history to jump pitching prospects who aren’t struggling straight from AA to the majors, only sending them down to develop in AAA if they end up struggling in the bigs. That seems to be the course that they’re committed to taking with Drabek, although it’s always possible that he starts the year in Vegas if he fails to impress in spring training.

      Jesse Litsch and Brad Mills are not particularly desirable candidates to have your rotation. Litsch had a previous history of extreme ERA-FIP luck, but it seems to have ran out along with his health. Mills really just doesn’t seem to have good enough stuff (or control) to stick as a starter. I would suggest Zack Stewart as a more more likely candidate to take the final job in the rotation if Drabek somehow loses it.

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      • Socrates says:

        I think Stewart and Rzepszynski to start the year, and Drybek after a month or so to replace one of them or an injury (this would delay free agency).

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      • Someanalyst says:

        “The jays have had a tendency in recent history to jump pitching prospects who aren’t struggling straight from AA to the majors, only sending them down to develop in AAA if they end up struggling in the bigs.”

        Agreed. I think that tendency has gotten worse since their AAA affiliate went from being an IL team to a PCL team.

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  3. Dale Westmoreland says:

    How do you write an article about Toronto’s perspective yet not even mention the player they received, Brett Lawrie?

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  4. Dale Westmoreland says:

    Disregard that comment.

    Total mistake.

    Sorry.

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  5. tbr says:

    From everything I’ve heard, calling Lawrie a “middle infielder” is generous.

    I wonder what makes the Jays think the Royals want Lawrie…it’s doesn’t strike me as Moore’s style to say “if you go get me so and so we’ll send you Greinke.”

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    • Someanalyst says:

      I wonder what makes folks assume they intend to flip him as part of a Greinke package. Some idiots in the TO press have ripped the Jays for “missing out” on Joey Votto. When Milwaukee proved willing to deal Lawrie that might have been in the back of their minds…

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  6. Socrates says:

    I dont understand the idea of trading away Marcum in order to land Greinke. I conceed that Greinke is a better pitcher, but it is not by as big a margin as people are making out. Pitching in the AL East as Marcum did is definately harder than in the AL Central.

    So factoring in the relative skill of Greinke to Marcum, and then the lose of prospects, and the difference in cost of Greinke to Marcum, I dont even think it is close to worth it.

    Lawrie is a legit prospect and he is from Canada. There appears to be reason to keep him. If they turn him and say… Snider around for Greinke they will have a slightly better team in 2011 then when they started the process (before trading Marcum) but at a significanly higher salary. The team in 2012 will also be a little better, but again at a higher salary. The team in 2013 and beyond wont even be close to as good when Greinke departs for $20M per (to Boston or Philly) and Lawrie and Snider are playing in KC and Marcum still in MLW on a relatively reasonable last year of arbitration.

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  7. GCM1979 says:

    I don’t think Blue Jays pull a deal off for Greinke unless it’s a steal. I can see the Jays trading away Bautista for another elite prospect, I don’t think the Blue Jays will re-sign him to a Jayson Werthesque contract.

    AA is the Asset Collector, I think you’ll continue to see him make these kinds of moves. Especially if it means adding elite prospects that will all peak at the same time.

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    • Someanalyst says:

      Agreed. The “compete in 2011″ idea is a bit of stretch I think. Best to plan for expanded playoffs in 2012 as the start of a new era.

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    • Someanalyst says:

      AA the Asset Collector… I hope we never get to calling him “attack” (AAtAC)… I need sleep.

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  8. Cheese Whiz says:

    As a Mariner’s fan I am perhaps still a little bitter about the League/Morrow trade, but to hope for “30 starts from Morrow at the level of his second half performance” next year seems beyond credulity to me.

    The kid has a live fastball to be sure, he also has terrible command and has never pitched more than 150 innings. That doesn’t even take into account his diabetes. Yes the Mariner’s jerked him around, and maybe he just needed a change of scenery, but I wouldn’t count on more than 150 IP of around a 4.00 FIP at the very best.

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    • hgjghgjjh says:

      His command did get much better as the season went on. You can find videos comparing his different mechanics from early in the year to his later starts. It isn’t just luck.

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      • Cheese Whiz says:

        Fair enough, they kid has always had talent and he certainly could have made strides. However I think durability will always be an issue for him, and expecting better than 3.75-4.25 BB/9 next year seems like wishing to me. Time will tell.

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      • Someanalyst says:

        Time will tell indeed. We have to hope that he doesn’t develop injury tendencies as he gets used to the 200IP load because, as a diabetic, recovery will always be a bit of an issue (I say that as a fellow insulin-shooter).

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    • Socrates says:

      the blanket reference to “bad command” for Morrow is really not accurate. He has periods of good command and bad command. While I agree that he is likely to continue to have some bouts of bad command again this year, he appears to be getting closer to correcting his command issues. Plenty of young pitchers struggle to adjust to the major league strikezone. Especially guys with the STUFF that Morrow has.

      Health being another issue, I agree, that he doesnt seem safe to project to 30-plus starts. I assume he has an arm injury in his future yet.

      All that said, I dont think that there is anything League can do at this point to make this deal not look like a huge loss for the Mariners.

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      • Cheese Whiz says:

        True, the deal does not look good for the Mariner’s right now. Clearly Z thought that Morrow would never make it as a starter and cut bait. However Chavez has come along quite well since the trade and still may provide them with value.

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  9. Nick V says:

    Is Dustin McGowan in the running for the 5th spot?

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    • Someanalyst says:

      Not unless he shows up at ST with his velocity recovered and the ability to pitch every couple of days without pain…

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  10. Mike Green says:

    I am pretty sure that Rzepczynski will be the fourth starter when the bell rings in 2011. With a career major league ERA+ of 100, and FIP and xFIP to match, and a very good minor league record, he will do just fine.

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    • lunchbox says:

      I see the starting rotation something like this, barring any more trades.
      Romero
      Morrow
      Cecil
      Drabek
      Rzepczynski

      I think drabek will perform well in spring training, he was born for this with the mental toughness from all the training and knowledge his father has given him. Rzepczynski looked better as the season went on and performed very well at the end. His AFL stats were amazing with a 1.16 ERA going 4 and 0; he’ll be ready when spring training comes around.

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  11. nolanryan says:

    Why would the Royals want any part of Lawrie or Snider when its been rumored the rangers will give Perez? Also, Does anyone think its possible the Royals package Grienke, Butler, and Soria for Perez, Feliz and Scheppers.

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  12. exxrox says:

    It amazes me how much everybody thinks Greinke can get in a trade. No way the Jays give up Snider+Drabek+more – that’s far more than we even got for Halladay, and far more than packages for Lee, CC, Lee, Santana, etc

    I don’t know why the league is so low on Snider now, he was a top prospect since high school with hitting talent that got him in the top-10 range for BA. He’s been jerked around by bad managers (cough cito gaston cough) and gotten injured just as he was hitting his stride. The fact remains though, he still has one of the prettiest swings around, or in the AL East at least. Prettiest swing on the team anyway (a “right” Adam Lind has a bit of say as well).

    No way both of those players go in the same deal.

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    • exxrox says:

      to add a bit more, trading both of those pieces would create the kind of gaping hole that would be difficult to fill…not worth it at all

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      • lunchbox says:

        I completely agree, if the jays can get greinke without giving up snider or drabek im all for it. cito was horrible for snider as he never gave him a chance to play regularly, just wait until next season to make a real analysis of snider after he is actually able to play everyday. his bat speed is off the charts and drastically above the major league avg.

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  13. Elli Davis says:

    well, by trading Marcum Blue Jays obtained a useful player without sabotaging themselves. That’s good, right?

    And for 2011, if they repeated a rotation like that, they would be even stronger. Hell yeah!

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