Making Sense of Marcum on the Waiver Wire


Shaun Marcum has until 1PM EST Thursday to find out if he’s going to remain a Milwaukee Brewer. That’s when Major League Baseball’s trade waiver deadline expires for teams looking to add players for postseason rosters.

Marcum, as well as the Milwaukee Brewers, have been no strangers to shifting rosters this season, but many fans – and most likely Marcum himself – should see this move as somewhat surprising. Not because it happened necessarily, but WHY it happened.

For those of you who have not been following the story – Shaun Marcum has had a single start in his return from nearly a month on the Disabled List due to elbow tightness. He spent a short time rehabbing in Class-A Wisconsin, and took a loss against Pittsburgh in a 4-0 loss in which he was credited with four uneared runs and struck out five in five innings.

That, as it turned out, was Marcum’s audition for any Major League club looking for a veteran starter heading into September and the postseason. Talk about a tough market.

So what does this mean for Shaun Marcum and his future as a Milwaukee Brewer? It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out that the 30 year-old veteran is not long for this team. The Brewers front office may be thinking that they are doing Marcum a favor, letting him leave the franchise now with the possibility of landing on a contender in need of some more pitching depth (read: Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay). What remains to be seen is how hot the market is for a pitcher in Marcum’s niche.

Shaun Marcum is a pretty classic ground-ball pitcher that has, up until this year, found his comfort zone in the lower third of the strike zone. This minimizes mistakes on his end, but ends up getting a lot of walks and when mistakes happen – they often end up letting out more runs than usual.This year Marcum has been able to up both his K/9 rate and K/BB rate by changing speeds and elevation more reliably.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Marcum will find his way onto a competitor before the end of 2012. While his numbers are good, there would be some reservations on the part of teams scouring the waiver wires for sure things. First and foremost, of course, would be the injury. Elbow injuries are always worrisome for pitchers, but even more so with the addition of age. As players get up in age, their ability to bounce back after injury diminishes. Again, nothing mind-blowing here. But one has to wonder if a team looking for a playoff push wants to pin their chances on an older pitcher trying to come back from an injury that can effect his mechanics. It didn’t seem to serious, but a month on the DL is a definite cause for concern whenever it happens.

And then there’s the question of Marcum’s playoff performance. Marcum pitched three games in the 2011 playoffs for Milwaukee – his only postseason additions to his resume – and lost all three games. His career postseason ERA is 14.90 with 16 earned runs and only five strikeouts in 9.2 Innings pitched. That is, to say the least, not good. Granted, the Brewers played a pair of potent offenses and hot teams in the postseason and it was Shaun Marcum’s first postseason experience. That aside, he simply imploded. He couldn’t find the strike zone, and when he did the opposing team was able to get around on it and do serious damage to Milwaukee’s championship hopes.

If I’m in the front office, trying to make the playoffs, I absolutely DO NOT WANT this man on my starting rotation. With that resume, who would? It’s a safe bet that, avoiding some serious injury or other situation that would put a contending team in desperate need for a pitcher, Shaun Marcum remains a Brewer for the remainder of 2012.

What that means going forward, of course, is that Shaun Marcum will not be a Brewer in 2013. I find it very hard to believe that the team would be willing to let him walk now at the end of the season, and then work to re-sign him over the winter. Shaun Marcum is a dependable, talented pitcher that the Brewers were lucky to have. He gave the team a chance to win every time he came out, and performed well in a rotation that was largely overshadowing him in the top two slots. Now he has a chance to continue his audition as he looks for greener pastures.