Last night, Paul Hagen reported on MLB.com that MLB and MLBPA set the arbitration mark for the 2012-2013 off-season. In order to gain a compensatory pick for losing free agents, ballclubs must offer their pending free agents at least $13.3 million. Furthermore, in order to gain a compensatory pick for losing free agents, ballclubs must have reserved the rights of those players from the opening of the season (i.e., no players traded mid-season can gain a compensatory pick if they become free agents). If a player rejects a club’s $13.3 million arbitration offer and becomes a free agent, that player’s former club gains a compensatory pick in the supplemental first round (unless the player is not signed before the June draft).
The Brewers currently feature two notable free agents, although neither player is likely to yield a $13.3 million offer from the club. Brewers’ righty Shaun Marcum is poised to reach free agency for the first time in his career, although he leaves the Brewers after an injury-shortened campaign in 2012. Former phenom reliever Francisco Rodriguez is also a likely free agent, but after a rocky year as an $8 million set-up man, a $5 million raise seems out of the question.
Marcum is a potentially intriguing option for a one-year deal at $13.3 million. Obviously, his injury-riddled past, mechanical changes in 2012, and overall stuff do not make Marcum a typical option for a large multi-year contract. When the righty stepped on the mound for the Brewers, he was above average during 2011 and 2012, notably finishing within the Top 20 for runs prevented among National League pitchers in 2011. Although Marcum did not defend his title as the Brewers’ most valuable pitcher with another great season in 2012, he remained a viable middle rotation pitcher for the Brewers (ultimately, he finished in the top 30 among 100+ IP NL starters for runs prevented). Overall, Marcum worked 520 IP with a 3.62 ERA (112 ERA+) after returning to the mound in 2010.
In order to offer Marcum a $13.3 million contract, the Brewers have to wager against two factors: (1) that Marcum will remain healthy enough to work 100+ innings for 2013, and (2) that there are not better pitching options available for a better price on the free agency market. Regarding (2), the benefit of offering an arbitration contract is that the Brewers will only be on the hook for one season. In that regard, Marcum could serve as a good stopgap until the Brewers’ situation with their young arms is entirely sorted. However, there are other starting pitching options available that might pitch more innings than Marcum; would an (estimated) $50-$60 million multi-year deal to a pitcher such as Anibal Sanchez provide the Brewers with more value? Are there other durable pitchers available for one year?