The case for bringing back Shaun Marcum

As it stands, the Brewers are looking at a 2013 starting pitching rotation consisting of five of the following pitchers: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson, Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, and perhaps Tyler Thornburg or Hiram Burgos.

AP Photo

AP Photo

With a batting lineup that would look good on a contender, this makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

Of those eight pitchers, exactly one of them has ever started 30 games in a season, Yovani Gallardo. If we ignore Gallardo as the only pitcher of the bunch with no question marks, it looks like this:

Marco Estrada: 32 starts, 4.32 ERA in his career

Chris Narveson: 63 starts, 4.67 ERA

Mike Fiers: 22 starts, 3.68 ERA

Wily Peralta: 5 starts, 2.48 ERA

Mark Rogers: 9 starts, 3.49 ERA

Tyler Thornburg: 3 starts, 4.50 ERA

Hiram Burgos: 0 major league appearances

It worries me greatly that the Brewers are thinking about handing 80 percent of our starting rotation over to these guys. Marco Estrada was very, very good last year, but just two years ago, he was a non-roster player in spring training. Chris Narveson was thought of as a “good number five starter” before he missed all of last season due to injuries. Fiers, Peralta, and Rogers have all had success in the majors, but with just 36 major league starts between the three of them, a serious small sample size alert is in order. It’s highly unlikely that all three of them would have the same success – or at least comparable success – as they’ve had in the past over the course of a full season.  And, don’t forget, Fiers was much worse at the end of last season than he was earlier. Rogers has serious injury concerns of his own. Thornburg and Burgos need more time in the minors.

Now, what about recent Brewer and current free agent Shaun Marcum? We all know how unreliable he’s been the last couple of seasons, with injuries plaguing much of his 2012 season and a horrid run at the end of 2011, including some truly disastrous playoff starts. What I think is being overlooked, however, is that in the last two seasons, Marcum has really been pretty good, at least during the regular season, when he’s been out there. In the 54 starts that Marcum made as a Brewer, he went 20-11 with a 3.60 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2 BB/9.

I also happen to believe that injury concerns could be overblown. Marcum missed all of 2009 after Tommy John surgery, but he made 38 starts in 2007, 25 before blowing out his elbow in 2008, 31 in 2010 and 33 in 2011 before being limited to 21 last season. Now, it’s possible that the Brewers know something about Marcum’s health that we don’t, but if there is nothing here other than vague concerns, I think that the notion of Marcum being eternally fragile like Rich Harden or Mark Prior is a little overblown.

Marcum sports a very respectable 3.76 career ERA, which includes five seasons in the AL East. He is good at limiting baserunners and avoiding walks. He strikes out more batters than you think he does. He’s four years younger than Ryan Dempster. In fact, his career numbers are about on par with Anibal Sanchez, who is about to sign a contract for 5 years and 75 million dollars.

So why does Milwaukee continue to show absolutely no interest in him? He’s been pretty solid and he’s shown, on more than one occasion, a willingness to return to Milwaukee, including yesterday when he told MLB Network radio that he was open to it. Better yet, the penny-pinching Brewers could probably afford him.

If Doug Melvin thinks that his younger players are ready to take the next step – which it doesn’t even sound he’s sure of, in stories like this – then great, the Brewers have insurance if Marcum gets injured. Why not start negotiations with an offer of something like 2 years, 10 million, with games started bonuses at 20, 25 and 30 that could push it up to 20 million? Milwaukee has the money for this – they would stay under the 80 million dollar threshold that Melvin has talked about even if Marcum hit all the bonuses, and if Marcum starts 30 games, it’s likely he’ll be very good.

To go into the season with a starting rotation of Gallardo, Estrada, Narveson, Fiers and Peralta or Rogers would, to me, be irresponsible. I have high hopes for many of the young pitchers the Brewers have, but with a lineup that is ready to win today, the pitching staff needs something a little more solid to stand upon. If Marcum fails to stay healthy, then Milwaukee will have plenty of young options to replace him with.

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One Response

  1. Nothing to say, but agree 100 % with you…

    The current rotation is very scary and keep in mind that the current bullpen is very scary as well.

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