In the Wake of a Trade for Marcum, Brewers Need a Slight Re-Direction

The Brewers went back to Toronto for the second time in three days when they traded 2B prospect and former #1 pick Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum on Sunday.  No matter what the minions of the blog commenters would have you believe, this is a good, reasonable move.  Here are the justifications:
  • Lawrie is a good prospect who played well at a young age in AA last year, but Milwaukee is going to get a long-term contract done with Rickie Weeks.  There won’t be any room at second base up here for at least 5 years or so.
  • Marcum is coming off a 2009 Tommy John surgery, but he threw 200 innings in 2010 with a 13-8 record and 3.64 ERA (which would make him better than the majority of Milwaukee’s current stable of pitchers).  Tommy John surgery is not the death-knell that the media generally hypes it up to be.  It is a complicated surgery with a long recovery period, but many players have returned to success after the procedure.  Marcum is not “damaged goods” just for having had this surgery.
  • This solidifies about 70% of the Brewers rotation for 2011.  They plan to go with Gallardo, Wolf, Marcum, and Narveson somewhere near the back (I count Narveson for about half a starter, which gets me to 70%).  Not to say this is a world championship rotation, but the top three look stronger than what we were going with a year ago (which, don’t forget – included Jeff Suppan), and the youth movement that emerged in the bullpen in 2010 is a step in the right direction, too.  If the Brewers can swing a deal for another #2- or #3-caliber starter (perhaps Casey McGehee or Mat Gamel and/or Carlos Gomez again, along with some minor leaguers?), combined with the prospects of giving Mark Rogers and/or Jeremy Jeffress a shot at a few starts… there is definitely more *hope* for the pitching in this scenario.  Maybe better performance, maybe not, but more upside for sure.

Here’s the facts, Brewers faithful: we are not going to be able to move Prince for the sort of stud pitching we once dreamed of.  Tom Haudricourt from the Journal-Sentinel has eloquently explained this several times since the end of the 2010 season.  The market is not there, and the few trade partners that seemed possible are just going to buy what they need instead.  To give up Prince for a Marcum would be highway robbery.  But Marcum is the sort of pitcher that was available, and Lawrie is a reasonable price to pay.

What to do with Fielder, though, when the clock is ticking on this final season of arbitration?  I am now of the opinion that the goal in trading Prince has to change.  We can raid the farm system to pick up some mid-level pitching, but that is going to leave us in trouble 2-4 years down the road.  There is no longer a team willing to pay the appropriate asking price for Fielder (top-of-the-rotation pitching), given that he is a one-year rental who will be a free agent next winter.  Melvin should be taking a page out his playbook from days gone by, when the Brewers featured a trio of Richie Sexson, Jeromy Burnitz and Geoff Jenkins, and move Fielder for as many prospects as he can get.

Where is the drawback, really?  We were considering moving a player that’s already on the roster over to first base anyway, in the event that Prince was gone.  If we trade someone else (or a few someone else’s) for another starting pitcher, that hole is plugged as well.  The Brewers are not going to be able to get the quality that they seek for Fielder, so they should just go for quantity instead.  I’m not saying that they shouldn’t still have some criteria– clearly, you’d want to look at prospects that have shown some major-league ability, and try to balance out the rosters at Huntsville and Nashville as best you can, but beyond that– just go for as many as you can.  I’m thinking that for the right team, who needs a big lefty bat to lift them this year, the Crew could get at least 3, maybe 4 prospects.  That’s one or two more draft picks than they would end up with if they stick with him this season and just let him go in free agency.

Personally, I don’t think there’s any shame in *how* you get there, just as long as you still meet your overall goals for the off-season:

  • Pick up 2 starting pitchers
  • Move Fielder
  • Minimal damage to the farm system
  • Still have a first baseman on opening day

Let’s get it done, Doug.