With free agency officially starting, ESPN’s Keith Law released his annual list of Top 50 free agents (Insider-only link) on the market. Two former Brewers made the list: Shaun Marcum at #23 and Francisco Rodriguez at #46.
Law has Marcum as the 10th-best starting pitcher on the market, behind Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda, Kyle Lohse, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Hisashi Iwakuma (who’s already signed an extension with Seattle) and Brandon McCarthy. In his explanation of Marcum’s ranking, Law shows some concern over Marcum’s declining command, saying he’s “like a right-handed Doug Davis, but without Davis’ fear of contact.” While Marcum still attacks hitters “like they kicked his dog,” Law says Marcum’s fastball is ultimately “too hittable” when he misses his spots.
As for Rodriguez, Law says he could “see him becoming a solid eighth-inning guy for someone,” but pulls a Rick Pitino and says “the old K-Rod isn’t walking through that bullpen door.” He notes that most of the damage done against Rodriguez occurred in that nightmarish week that saw him give up 10 runs in the span of four outings, the stretch that essentially got Greinke traded to the Angels. In a line a few Brewers fans might object to, Law says K-Rod had “a pretty good season outside of a week where he was the worst pitcher on the planet.”
The Brewers passed on making qualifying offers to both Marcum and Rodriguez before Friday’s deadline, meaning the team won’t be eligible for draft pick compensation if they were to sign elsewhere, and the signing team wouldn’t have to forfeit their top draft pick. Under the new CBA, teams that sign players who were made qualifying offers don’t surrender their pick to the team that lost the player — the signing team simply loses their pick, and only the top 10 first round picks are protected, as opposed to the top 15 in years past. The Brewers will have the 17th pick in next year’s draft.
Ultimately, it appears the Brewers are spooked by Marcum’s health and didn’t want to risk being stuck paying $13.3 million for a half-season of performance in the event Marcum’s elbow flares up again. Declining to make a qualifying offer to Rodriguez was never a question, either — even before another domestic violence arrest — after he unexpectedly took the Brewers’ offer of arbitration last winter.
Overall, this is a free agent class that lacks in big names, but has a lot of solid guys who could help a lot of teams. Guys like Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster and Brandon McCarthy would all look pretty good in navy and gold. Unfortunately, most of those solid players will likely end up being priced out of the Brewers’ reach.