As of yesterday evening, It's official. The Toronto Blue Jays have traded right hander Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers for top prospect Brett Lawrie. 29 year old Marcum was Toronto's opening day starter this year, and took on the role of staff ace after the departure of Roy Halladay last December. In 31 starts this year, Marcum went 13 and 8, with a 3.64 ERA, and a WHIP of only 1.147. He also struck out 165 and walked just 43. Marcum missed all of the 2009 campaign while recovering from Tommy John Surgery. His overall record with the Blue Jays was 37 and 25, with a career ERA of 3.85.
Brett Lawrie is a second base prospect who was already playing AA ball at age 20 in only his second full minor league season. During the 2010 season, the Langley British Columbia native hit .286, with a .346 OBP, 36 doubles, 8HR, and 63RBI. He also stole 30 bases. Lawrie rated #81, and #59 in Baseball America's top prospects over the last two seasons, and he is likely to start the season with AAA Las Vegas.
I'm a Shaun Marcum fan, and when I first heard that he'd been traded to the Brewers, I was expecting a package of prospects in return. When it was reported that it was just one prospect coming back, it was a little hard to swallow. I have always believed that it's never a good idea to trade a pitcher for a position player, and I have always felt that Marcum is a top end of the rotation guy. Not necessarily an ace, but a solid #2 or 3. Back when he and Dustin McGowan were coming up together, and both breaking in with the club, a lot of people were excited about McGowan's stuff. McGowan was dubbed the better pitcher of the two, but I never felt that way. McGowan did have better stuff, that much was true. I watched him from the right field seats with my wife, and my dog Sydney on Dog Day in 2007, when he took a no hitter into the ninth inning. I acknowledge that he had the tools to be a great pitcher, and that he had more raw talent than Marcum. However I always felt that Marcum was the better pitcher. He was more consistent, and he's always able to find a way to get it done with the tools he has. He may only possess a fastball that tops out around 87mph, but he can place it wherever he wants to, and he has a great change up to compliment it. I remember during the 2008 season, before having to undergo Tommy John surgery, Marcum was statistically off to a better start than Halladay was.
This year, Marcum embraced the role as the staff ace when Halladay left, and he immediately took on a leadership role with the pitching staff. This just doesn't seem like the type of guy you trade away. Having said that, I understand that he's 29, he'll be a free agent after 2012, and his value may never be as high as it is right now. Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail, and host of the "Jeff Blair Show" heard mid days on the FAN590 compared this trade to one that JP Riccardi tried to make a few years ago in Nashville at the winter meetings. The deal put in play was outfielder Alex Rios, for a young pitcher with the San Francisco Giants. I vividly remember the fan outcry at the time for Riccardi not to do the deal should the Giants GM Brian Sabean accept the offer. A number of fans called in to the FAN in Toronto and voiced their disapproval of the possible trade. Blue Jays forums online lit up with posts from fans screaming for this trade not to happen. The young pitcher? Tim Lincecum. I hear he turned out to be alright. Just a season and a half later, Rios was claimed from waivers by the Chicago Whitesox, and the Blue Jays let him go for nothing. Although the Rios for Lincecum offer was turned down by Sabean, it was very much the same type of deal that happened this week in Florida. I realize there are differences. In that offer, the major league veteran was a position player, and the young player was a pitcher. Lincecum also had one major league season under his belt. The Marcum for Lawrie deal has the Blue Jays sending a proven Major League pitcher, and receiving back a very young, very unproven player with a high ceiling.
As the day progressed, I felt marginally better about the deal. Lawrie possesses a broad skill set, and is a highly touted prospect who is a position player. Something Toronto has been lacking down on the farm. It is suspected that the Blue Jays long term plans are to have Hill and Lawrie as their second and third baseman. Who plays where remains to be seen, but this is at least one full season away.
In an interview this morning, Marcum expressed his love for the city of Toronto, the organization, and the fans. He also said that he thought the Jays were in a good spot, and "not very far away". Marcum was initially disappointed when he first heard of the trade, and he and his family are still adjusting from the news. However he said he understood that this is baseball, this is what Alex Anthopoulos feels is best for the organization, and that he was looking forward to helping the Milwaukee Brewers win ball games next year.
I really hate to see Marcum go. I think he'll be great in the National League, and that he'll make the all star team at least once while he's there. I also think he'll hit a home run in the 2011 season. Marcum was a short stop first, and he can hit!
The good news for Jays fans? Morrow, Romero, Cecil, and Drabek have a lot of upside, and a lot of depth behind them. You can never have enough pitching, but it sure is nice to have options.