This trade was first broken by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
This was a win-win trade.
Brewers starting pitching was horrific last season, posting a 4.65 ERA and a 4.43 FIP. Shaun Marcum should be an immediate fix to a rotation with two clear holes heading into the offseason. In a relatively neutral park and in the extraordinarily difficult AL East, Marcum posted a 3.64 ERA and 3.8 bWAR (Baseball-Reference’s implementation) along with a similarly impressive 3.74 FIP and 3.5 fWAR (FanGraphs’s implementation). Marcum is ideally a #3 starter, but he slots in right behind Gallardo, giving this staff a legitimate 1-2 punch that has been lacking since 2008. Although this is certainly no CC-Sheets (or Carpenter-Wainwright) combination, the top of the Brewers rotation now competes quite well with most National League squads. This also allows the Brewers to shift Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson back to #3 and #4 in the rotation, spots that are far more in line their production levels. Marcum is entering his second season of arbitration this season, meaning he will be under team control at reasonable rates for the 2011 and 2012 season, and indications are that the Brewers may attempt to sign him long term.
In order to acquire Marcum, however, the Brewers were forced to part with their top prospect, Brett Lawrie. There’s little doubt about Lawrie’s bat. As a 20 year old in AA, Lawrie posted a .285/.346/.449 line with 30 stolen bases in 609 plate appearances with AA Hunstville. Even though that’s not elite power, the typical 20 year old isn’t able to create those kind of numbers at such a high level. The question for Lawrie is defense – both in the sense of his defensive skill as well as his ultimate positional home. He already busted at catcher and is now considered to be a second baseman. However, Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein isn’t convinced.
That makes a big difference in determining Lawrie’s value. A second baseman with the production Lawrie has shown in the minors is almost certainly a star. A left fielder? A useful starter, for sure, but not nearly as special.
Although I think attitude concerns are typically overblown, it would be remiss to not mention Lawrie’s desire to pull out of the Arizona Fall League at the end of his minor league season. Keith Law has mentioned before that Lawrie has had “friction” with coaches, whatever that means. There’s a very good chance that this is meaningless, and talent is talent, but attitude problems are never a good thing.
Marcum has his own red flag. He missed the entire 2009 season with Tommy John surgery, and prior to that, he only managed 150 IP in both 2007 and 2008. Although he did manage 195 IP in 2010, that’s no guarantee going forward. All pitchers are injury risks to start with, and prior injuries are by no means a good sign.
For the Blue Jays, they dealt from a position of strength and receive what could be a major piece in Alex Anthopolous’s attempt to load the team for a run in the dangerous AL East. For the Brewers, they deal into a position of weakness, filling one of their biggest holes in an attempt to, ostensibly, make a run in the easiest division in baseball. Brett Lawrie could become a star, but by the same token, this move could be what it takes to vault Milwaukee into the playoffs. Each team gets what they want here, and in terms of value, I think, as do experts, that both teams received a fair deal here.