Why the Brewers are shunning Shaun Marcum | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

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.

When the Brewers held their 9th annual medical symposium about a month ago, buried among all the praise for the Brewers from around the game was this nugget (h/t BadgerNoonan):

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.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Brad says: December 13, 2012

    I agree completely, lets field a rotation completely from our farm, I can’t remember the last time we had a rotation we grew. I’m excited to see how they can preform!

  2. Nicholas Zettel says: December 13, 2012

    Wow! Extremely interesting, I had no idea the Brewers were renowned in that regard. Way cool!

    Something still seems funny about the way Marcum shelved his change up, too. A whole lot of things changed about his approach while he was in Milwaukee. He also pitched through a lot of pain here (I remember reports noting that he worked through shoulder pain early last year). I thought Marcum did a great job while in Milwaukee, but I gather that his cost outweighs the benefits at this point.

  3. Jake Warren says: December 13, 2012

    You’ve embiggened this article with the cromulent use of that graph!

  4. Jake W. says: December 13, 2012

    I don’t understand the Brewers. Either trade Corey and Aoki and retool for 2014 or go out and pick up a few arms. I understand taking a cautious approach, and some of the best signings happen later in the off-season, but standing pat with this team will lead to a 75 win season.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: December 13, 2012

      Why would this be a 75-win roster? The club has a good chance at the best offense in the NL, a rotation full of arms that mostly limit the damage and don’t make mistakes, and a bullpen (which you can flip a coin about any year). There are certainly question-marks, but 75-wins?

      • Sean Boho says: December 13, 2012

        I don”t disagree with either of the possibilities you guys make but how can anyone say we have a rotation full of arms that mostly limit damage and don’t make mistakes. You have 2.5 months of data to back your argument fueled mostly by the big “mo”. I’d like to dream of it happening and the kids make it happen. The reality is that a 162 game schedule will give you the data you need to make that statement, right or wrong. Unless something special happens, 2013 could easily go up in smoke. History proves this.

      • oh Hal says: December 13, 2012

        Defense might get a bit of a bump as well. Personally, I am excited.

      • Jake W. says: December 14, 2012

        There are obviously many possibilities, seeing as last year a decent bullpen leads to a playoff team. Grienke and Marcum both started 21 games. That is a lot of production lost. A-Ram had a season for the ages. Bullpens are quite volatile but there hasn’t been much addition, just subtraction (of bad players). It is just so unlikely that the young guys can fill 4 rotation spots well, and fill out the pen. This team has a great offense with a HUGE question mark in both the rotation and the bullpen. Yes, the A’s made the playoffs with 5 rookies and a worse offense but can you feel good about that? Would you put money on that?

    • Bob says: December 14, 2012

      Aoki is an extremely inexpensive leadoff hitter. Why would a team trying to reduce payroll part with an asset like that?

      • Jake W. says: December 14, 2012

        I love Aoki. But now that he has proven he can hit in the Bigs, I’d like Melvin to either work on an extension or turn him into an asset. (I also thought he had a player option, not a team option for 2014, which was why I had opined that.)

  5. Benn says: December 13, 2012

    Nice job, Jaymes.

    It’s really too bad, and kind of unfortunate for Marcum, but I think staying away makes more and more sense.

  6. Dan V says: December 13, 2012

    I’m pretty much fine with going with what we got for starters right now, give’m a shot, last year it was fun to watch them step up and succeed. I’d really, really like to see some bullpen additions though. Losing sucks, but winning and then watching that lead evaporate is just brutal. I literally had to walk away from watching games last year because of my inability to watch meltdowns.

    I think our young guns can get us through a season.

  7. Jason says: December 14, 2012

    If Marcum isn’t signed by January I think Melvin will talk with his agent about a short term deal (2years-maybe a vesting option for a third). For the time being, I think Melvin is concerned that Marcum’s agent would use the Brewers’ proposal as a benchmark to shop him around. Give it time and let the process work itself out.

  8. Sean Boho says: December 14, 2012

    My 2 cents…

    I understand the statistical risks but… Marcum knows these kids, can be a solid mentor, contributes when healthy, and can be counted on to keep it light when the youngsters struggle. He certainly knows his craft.

    DM and MA need to figure out the best avenue to help move this young staff to the next level? I think we all have the opinion that it has the potential to be high quality. A quality veteran who will teach and move aside when the boys are ready is what we need. I see Marcum as a viable option even with the risks. I was pro Dempster for the same reasons plus he was durable and lights out at Miller Park.

    Stats aside, how about some outside the box thinking to get these kids to the next level and also have the ability to stay in the hunt at the same time. I wouldn’t mind seeing one of our veteran castoffs back in the bullpen for the same reasons. Some of these youngster may be there also.

    Personally, Jackson, Loshe and my favorite… Liriano… but I think I’d be ok with Marcum for the above reasons. I do not expect a splash like most are hoping for.

  9. Chris says: December 17, 2012

    Great article pointing out the TJ re-injury risk! Absolutely screams stay away! And I’m glad they are doing it. Marcum fell of a cliff at innings 166+ in 2011. This is what folks talking about the young’ins are scared of. Well, if an injury risk SP with a history of absolute tail off at the amount of innings youre thinking could happen to the guys coming up from our farm then why bother? Not to mention a deal has to be in the 8mil+/season range at going rate. Where’s the guaranteed improvement vs. what Brewers have now? Why throw away money at someone who doesn’t guarantee a better team?

  10. doug says: December 18, 2012

    why did we pursue Dempster for 2 years when he’s past-due for Tommy John #2? Does his ugly glove flipping motion somehow cure him of future TJ surgery? 1 year of Marcum sounds smarter than 2 of Demptster

  11. Erick says: December 24, 2012

    At this point it doesn’t look like Marcum will get multiple years. Sign him for one and let him offset the fact that Peralta will be on an innings limit.


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