Shaun Marcum’s an effective pitcher when healthy, but questions about his durability persist as he approaches free agency. One year after reaching the 200-inning plateau for the first time, Marcum has been sidelined for much of the season. The right-hander experienced shoulder stiffness at the beginning of the year, then missed two-plus months with elbow tightness in the middle of the season.
Marcum has pitched well overall, posting a 3.91 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 35.8% ground ball rate in 106 innings. His average fastball checks in at 86.6mph, which ranks 130th among the 136 starting pitchers with at least 100 innings this year. But Marcum never needed an overpowering fastball to succeed in the past, when he held his own against AL East offenses. He uses his fastball far less frequently than most pitchers, changing speeds to generate more than his share of swing and misses. This year he has a career-best 11.3% swinging strike rate.
However, he hasn't pitched particularly well since returning from the disabled list, and has not completed six innings in any of those five post-DL starts. The events of the last few months appear to have reduced Marcum’s chances of obtaining a qualifying offer from the Brewers after the season.
Not only has Marcum spent considerable time of the disabled list, starters such as Michael Fiers, Marco Estrada, Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta have emerged, lessening the impact of Marcum's health issues, Chris Narveson's injury, Zack Greinke's departure and Randy Wolf's ineffectiveness. While the Brewers figure to pursue pitching this offseason, they aren't desperate. They may decide against extending Marcum a qualifying offer in the $13MM range, even though it’d the only way for them to obtain draft pick compensation for the 30-year-old.
If the Brewers don’t consider Marcum a $13MM pitcher and suspect that the industry shares their view, it’d likely make sense to let the Turner Gary Sports client leave for no compensation. However, if they believe they could find trade partners for Marcum at that salary, extending a qualifying offer becomes less risky. In that scenario, draft pick compensation would be within reach. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s almost time for the Brewers to decide…