Over the weekend, Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin told reporters that the team is prepared to watch Shaun Marcum’s performance this season, his last before becoming eligible for free agency for the first time, before discussing a potential contract extension. In other words, the Brewers are willing to risk Marcum’s departure from the team rather than sign him to an extension before he proves the he can bounce back from his terrible end to last season and an injury plagued start to this year’s Spring Training.

Such a laissez-faire approach to the situation is far from surprising.

Despite only visiting the Disabled List once since missing all of 2009 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Marcum’s reputation for health risks isn’t unfounded due to the myriad of day to day injuries that have taken their toll on his back, legs, shoulder, fingers and hip. This year, as he scrambles to be ready for Opening Day, a stiff shoulder had kept him out of the lineup for exhibition games until the middle of last week.

While a general lack of urgency to lock up the right handed pitcher is understandable, it’s also worth nothing that by not pursuing a contract extension, the Brewers are admitting to a massive value loss in the trade that sent Brett Lawrie to the Toronto Blue Jays two off seasons ago. The deal would thereby be made even more lopsided than it appeared when the young third baseman made his Major League debut last year.

It’s not without some humour that at the same time as Melvin admits his hesitancy to sign Marcum long term, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com is already paving Lawrie’s path to the Hall of Fame.

You’d think that a month and a half in the big leagues wouldn’t tell us anything meaningful about any player, right? Well, guess again. Since 1900, only a dozen other players have had an OPS that high at age 21 or younger, in a season in which they got as many at-bats as Lawrie got in 2011. There’s not a Shane Spencer-ish fluke in the bunch. Ten of those players are now in the Hall of Fame. An 11th (Albert Pujols) is a lock to join them. The 12th was Hal Trosky, whose spectacular career path was cut short by migraines. There is only one other name on the list: Brett Lawrie. Whew.

Whew indeed.

Of course, that’s not to say that the Milwaukee front office is wrong to have their doubts about Marcum. It’s merely a reminder that cutting bait on the player represents a larger loss than merely waving goodbye to an unreliable starter.

As nice as it may have been for the Brewers to finally make the playoffs last season, the cost could prove to be much too high if the team is unable to retain the talent that not only got them there, but that also required them to mortgage their future to acquire.

Prince Fielder’s departure is one thing, but allowing Marcum and Zack Greinke, who is also entering his final season before free agent eligibility, to leave would also mean little in return for such prospects as Lawrie, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.

If the Brewers have already given up on the Lawrie deal, perhaps it places even more emphasis on signing Greinke, something that, given the player’s refusal to be represented by an actual sports agent, will assuredly be a unique process. Of course, if the Brewers do wait until the end of the year to speak to Marcum about his return, they will have a small exclusive window to do so. For his part, the pitcher might still be interested.

I’d like to stay, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. I don’t write the checks and do what they do [in the front office]. They obviously have a reason for wanting to not do anything. That’s their decision, not mine. I haven’t closed the door. I love it here, my wife loves it here, kids like it. So, no, I won’t close the door. But if they close the door on their end, then it’s closed. There’s not a lot we can do about it.

Comments (23)

  1. I’m sure there are a ton of Brewers fans who initially were happy with the trade now basing the Brewers front office for making it. Hindsight in 20/20. I’m sure they’d be singing a different tune if the Brewers had won the World Series last year (and Marcum probably helped them make the playoffs).

    • bashing…not basing., sorry

      • I don’t know. It wouldn’t be the first time a bad trade forced fans to take solace in the smoking of cocaine.

        • ::rimshot::

          Zing to the za-zing-a-ding-ding-zing!

          (As a Padres fan I am all too familiar with the requisite off season base session– in really bad seasons, you need it by the all star break. Desperate baseball times call for desperate debasing measures.)

  2. Disagree that by not signing Marcum the Brewers are admitting to a value loss in the Lawrie trade. It’s quite possible that Marcum will have an injury-ridden season and his value will actually be less this off season than it would be right now. The Brewers may well save money by signing him via free agency.

    Conversely, if Marcum has a great season, strengthens his value, and contributes to another playoff run, then the Brewers will have received two very strong seasons for him that contributed to playoff runs. For a small market team, a trade is often the only way to lure high-priced free agents and the Brewers were wise to trade Lawrie in order to strengthen what was (prior to Marcum’s arrival) a relatively weak rotation.

    • The Blue Jays will have Lawrie for at least six seasons if they want him. Two and done from Marcum is a value loss, even if he wins the Cy Young this year and leaves.

      • Well, the Brewers are in win-now mode, unlike the Blue Jays. They have as good a chance as any to make the post season and then (who knows) they could win the world series, in which case the Marcum trade will be viewed in a positive light. And if Marcum doesn’t have a great season, they can sign him via free agency at a reduced rate.

      • At the time, it was a risky trade for the Jays. AA slept on the trade apparently, as he was giving up his opening day starter for a 20 year old AA player with no real defensive position.

        Sure it looks like the trade is a no-brainer today. But at the time, it could have gone either way.

      • the jays got what a month plus the post season out of david cone for trading away jeff kent (lifetime WAR – a whole fucking bunch) + a WS – but where’s the value in that?

      • Two and done PLUS A FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK. I’m Wolf Blitzer for Fuck’s sake! See below.

  3. so you wouldn’t trade anybody to get your team to the lcs if you were the gm, what if the brewers make it that far again this year, or farther? what if the team does poorly but marcum is fantastic and gets traded for “value” during the season? what is more valuable than actually making it to the playoffs?

    i wouldn’t take back jeff kent for the 92 WS, would you?

    • I wouldn’t trade Brett Lawrie to get a starter who might contribute to making it to the LCS. No, I wouldn’t do that.

      • I wouldn’t do it either. We should just feel lucky that there are still GM’s out there that are willing to do it ;) This is AA’s bread and butter.

        • yes it’s much better to be a team with a high organizational ranking than a team that makes the playoffs – take that everyday

  4. From interviews, I get the sense that Marcum does better when expectations aren’t all eyes on him (like Rasmus). His solid year in 2010 didn’t cushion the shock of the sudden trade to Milwaukee, and he was very uncomfortable about his perceived role as an “Ace”. The Greinke acquisition gave him space to move into the background, a place he’s much more comfortable.

    When all the talk is about him, it gets in his head and shows in his performance – specially during the playoffs when there was alot of negative focus on whether or not he should start. Roenicke’s public comments came across as backhanded to me, and I think not having the trust of his manager contributed to Shaun’s melt-down.

    I’m sure I’m supposed to believe that starting pitchers should be immune to that kind of emotional pressure, and rise to the occasion, but Marcum has always seemed to me to be an emotional player. Playing pro is what seems important to him, not being the star.

    Emotional intangibles, more than health, killed his debut year in the NL when many thought he would blosson. Most of you will think that’s irrelevant mind-crap, but I think it explains Marcum’s year in 2011, and sadly what worries me about 2012. Him thinking “they don’t want me” is not a good sign. He’s not a “seller”, he’s a bulldog; not a leader, but a cog. And I think that’s under appreciated.

    And before you fry me for concern about his psyche, I’d like to put forward that Brett Lawrie with the Brewers would never have been like Brett Lawrie with the Blue Jays. I truly believe that judging the trade as a loss to the Crew is wrong, because they would not have had the Lawrie that we have now. Milwaukee just isn’t built right for Lawrie.

    It’s a shame we couldn’t have both Marcum and Lawrie on our team because I think Marcum could be the solid #3 that we need right now. /fangurl

  5. a) They made the playoffs last year with Marcum; had he not completely lost his stuff in the postseason, there’s a great chance they could have ridden the Marcum/Greinke train all the way to the World Series. The playoffs are a crapshoot. You can’t argue that they gave it their best shot (Yuniesky notwithstanding).
    b) Lawrie is going above ARod in fantasy drafts. Come on, people – it’s 150 ABs. I want him to go apeshit on the league as much as anyone but there’s no guarantee he’s going be able to sustain anything over a full season of exposure to the league.
    c) Signing a player to a multimillion dollar extension to rationalize a bad trade? There’s a sound business strategy. Lawrie=sunk cost.

  6. Why does everyone forget about the FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK that is still in play for teams that lose players to free agency?

    The new CBA omitted type A and type B compensation, but protects teams from losing players like Marcum. He would not accept a one year, $12mm contract, so the Brewers would receive a first round pick in the 2013 draft, who could be just as good as Marcum, or even Lawrie.

    Sure there is risk, mainly due to health concerns, but Marcum’s true value includes either a first round pick or an extension.

    So there really is a good reason to let it ride.

    • what are you crazy, there can be no upside from this trade for the brewers, none! aa has two have anally raped the entire organization twice with this trade and eaten all their peanuts. playoffs last year? any benefit to the brewers from having marcum this season? these are irrelevancies!

      did marcum even pitch for the brewers last season? i believe all he did was sit at home and refuse to show up and get fat….

  7. Same day, same game, same inning, next at bat. Possible first day.
    I would say she sitting out of harms way by being away from the ooglers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *