January 15, 2013
Tuesday, January 15
The free-agent list of starting pitchers got a little thinner on Monday afternoon, when, as first reported by Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates ponied up a one-year deal to retain right-hander Jeff Karstens. Today’s Roundup includes notes on two other northpaws who are presently searching for new homes.
Shaun Marcum drawing calls from at least three teams
Morosi tweeted in the wee hours of Monday morning that the Padres, Pirates, and Rangers have recently placed calls to Marcum’s agent, Rex Gary, and it is possible that the 31-year-old’s market will expand further as he nears a decision. The Indians were previously interested, but the impact of the Brett Myers signing on their pursuit of Marcum is unclear. Newsday’s Marc Carig reported a few weeks ago that the Mets—who, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, have plenty of dough to throw around in the last few weeks before spring training—were considering Marcum to supplant the departed R.A. Dickey in their rotation. Finally, a return to the Brewers cannot be ruled out, as Marcum himself told ESPN’s Jim Bowden a month ago, though the frugal Doug Melvin might be content with his in-house options.
Marcum might have been a hot commodity this offseason, had he not missed 61 games with tightness in his throwing elbow, on which he underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2008. The former Blue Jay, who came to Milwaukee for then-top prospect Brett Lawrie before the 2011 season, was worth 3.2 wins in 2010 and 2.5 wins in 2011, before dropping off to 0.8 WARP last year. Marcum pocketed $7.725 million in 2012, after avoiding arbitration, and though his medicals are a concern, it seems reasonable to think that he could at least match that salary in the coming year.
Unfortunately, after years of being considered one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball because of his unique, soft-tossing style, Marcum exhibited warning signs in 2012 that may now be tempering teams’ willingness to enter a long-term commitment. The righty employs a full menu of off-speed pitches to mask his Reagan-era fastball, feeding a heavy dose of cutters and sliders to like-handed hitters, while using curveballs and changeups to keep lefties on their heels. And that’s where the caution flag comes in.
The strike-zone plot above, from Marcum’s pitcher profile, illustrates the extent to which his changeup baffled left-handed hitters in 2010, the best year of his major-league career. No pitcher who faced at least 200 lefties that year—and yes, that includes southpaws—fared better than Marcum, who held them to a .194 TAv. Marcum, then a Blue Jay, was so fearsome to opposite-handed batters that Rays manager Joe Maddon ordered his switch-hitters to bat righty against him, and even placed lefty-masher Kelly Shoppach in the cleanup spot in a Tampa Bay rout on June 9, 2010.