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Marcum Doubtful to Return to Brewers Next Year?

Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP
Even though the surprising success of arms like Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada has made his absence more tolerable, Shaun Marcum should be returning to the Brewers soon. The right-hander made his first rehab start today for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, going three innings, allowing one hit (a home run) while walking none and striking out three. Twenty-eight of his thirty-six pitches were for strikes.

Marcum said today that he is going to require at least one more rehab start (possibly two) before returning to the Brewers, meaning that he won’t return as soon as he is eligible to – his stint on the 60-day DL will be up August 14. So, if the Brewers want to try and move him before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, they will likely have only one healthy major-league start left in which to showcase him.

However, Marcum’s successful start was not the most interesting piece of news to come out of Appleton – er, Grand Chute – today. In an article by the 
(h/t to @Mass_Haas), Marcum sounded almost certain that the Brewers would not be re-signing him this offseason. In reference to the team, Marcum said “Everything has been quiet on their end” and noted that while he has enjoyed his time in Milwaukee, “Hopefully there will be someone out there I can sign on with and we’ll see what happens.”

The Brewers have been very quiet on their plans for Marcum after this year, but this really surprised me. The club has made it very clear that they plan on contending in 2013, and perhaps the biggest obstacle to that is a lack of depth in the starting rotation, which would be greatly exacerbated if Marcum weren’t around.

Without him, the Brewers would be looking at a starting five of Yovani Gallardo, Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, and some combination of Mark Rogers, Tyler Thornburg, Wily Peralta, or whatever they can acquire via free agency or a trade. That roughly translates to “one number-two starter, two 4/5 types, and a lot of question marks”, and no amount of hitting, fielding, or bullpen magic is going to make the Brewers a viable playoff team with that rotation.

Given his health this year, re-signing Marcum may be risky proposition, but, if healthy, he would go a long way towards filling the hole in the Brewers’ rotation that is going to need to be plugged somehow. Though such a deal would almost certainly run at least three years at eight figures per, I think that’s reasonable for a pitcher of Marcum’s caliber – the Brewers gave Randy Wolf 3 years and $31 million in 2010, and that deal actually turned out to be a pretty fair one.

It’s also possible that Milwaukee wants to pursue other mid-level starters or is even going to make another run at Zack Greinke. Such a move(s) could make sense too, especially if the club knows something we don’t about Marcum’s medicals, but all of these options – whether in the form of cash or prospects – would likely come at a higher cost than Marcum. He knows a lot more about this situation than I do, but Marcum does seem excessively down on his future in Milwaukee – at this point, it looks like he could be a good “buy low” deal for the Brewers. Ultimately, though, as he kind of said in the
article, that’s entirely in the hands of the decision-makers in the front office.