On Wednesday, free agent pitcher Shaun Marcum told XM radio that he’d be interested in returning to the Brewers. On the surface, this seems perfect. Marcum wants to come back, and the Brewers need to fill some holes in the starting rotation (one of which was created when Marcum filed for free agency).
There’s only one problem, though: the Brewers have all but said they don’t want him back.
Thursday morning, Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt that he hasn’t spoken to Marcum’s agent, and made it sound like he has no plans to do so:
“We haven’t talked to his agent (Rex Gary),” said Melvin. ‘It’s nice to know he’d consider (returning) but we haven’t talked about it. With most free agents, we give them the chance to go out and test the market.
“We like Shaun; he pitched well for us. But I always thought he’d engage in talks with a team and get something worked out, and he probably will.”
“Things change but it wasn’t on our radar (to talk to Marcum about returning),” said Melvin.
So here the Brewers are, staring at the possibility of fielding a rotation of Yovani Gallardo and four largely unproven youngsters, showing no interest in a pitcher that provided 325 innings of 3.60 ERA, 2.72 K/BB ball. If the lack of interest isn’t rooted in performance, the next best guess would be there’s something in Marcum’s medicals that has the Brewers completely spooked.
Marcum missed a large portion of the 2012 season with elbow tightness, and while he returned in late-August, he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was before the flare-up. Not only did his pitches lack the movement they had, but his velocity dipped, as well (click to embiggen):
Add in the fact that 2012 was the second year in a row the Brewers saw Marcum fade late in the season (the first time may have cost the Brewers a National League pennant), and it’d be understandable if Melvin & Co. didn’t want to put themselves through that again.
The Brewers have one of the best medical staffs in baseball — Milwaukee players have spent the second-fewest days on the disabled list in the past decade — and even they weren’t able to keep Marcum on the field consistently. That should probably be a red flag to any team interested in signing Marcum this winter.
Beyond empirical data and analyses, Caplinger has gathered anecdotal evidence that Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery has a shelf life of six to eight years. That was true for two former Brewers pitchers, Chris Capuano and Randy Wolf, who had their elbows blow out a second time within that time frame.
This is something that could go a long way in explaining the Brewers’ lack of interest in bringing Marcum back.
Marcum blew out his elbow in September 2008, and missed the 2009 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Six years removed from the surgery would be the 2014 season…the second year in any multi-year deal offered to the right-hander. The fact that he’s struggled with shoulder stiffness and elbow soreness in the two years is another red flag.
If you believe the Brewers’ research — and at this point, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt — Marcum is a ticking timebomb, and a risk they’ve been unwilling to take.