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12/06/10 9:41 PM EST
Brewers complete swap for Marcum, deal Lawrie
Need for pitching motivated club to part with top prospect
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- New Brewers manager Ron Roenicke attended his nephew's wedding before joining the team's contingent at the Winter Meetings. It turned into an impromptu scouting summit. Roenicke's nephew is Josh Roenicke, a pitcher in the Blue Jays' Minor League chain who happens to be friends with Jays reliever Casey Janssen, who attended the wedding. Janssen happens to be great friends with Jays starter Shaun Marcum, who happened to be traded to Ron Roenicke's Brewers just as Josh was cutting his wedding cake. The friends exchanged texts throughout the night about Marcum's impending move to Milwaukee. A day later, with Marcum having passed his requisite physical exam, the trade was official -- Marcum to the Brewers for infield prospect Brett Lawrie. "I've got a good handle on [Marcum] now," Roenicke said. "Casey filled me in on him. I know his make-up. I know how competitive he is." Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and his Jays counterpart, Alex Anthopoulos, announced the trade Monday night at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. The Brewers sent their top prospect in 20-year-old Lawrie to complete a one-for-one deal. The scouts may be right, and Lawrie may indeed turn out to be the next Jeff Kent. But the Brewers need pitching, and that's why they pulled the trigger for Marcum, who took over as Toronto's top starter last season after the departure of Roy Halladay and went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts in the tough American League East. Barring more moves, Marcum will join right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Randy Wolf at the top of Milwaukee's rotation. The trade blindsided Marcum, who said his representatives, Rex Gary and Jim Turner, had just begun conversations with the Blue Jays about a contract extension. Marcum, who earned $850,000 last season, is arbitration-eligible and two seasons removed from free agency. "It kind of caught me off-guard," he said of the news Sunday that he'd been traded. "It was more of a phone call than a formal offer, just to see if we were interested, and two days later, the trade happened." Marcum isn't a power pitcher like Gallardo -- his fastball averaged 87.1 mph last season, according to Fangraphs.com -- but Marcum has an excellent changeup that sits around 81 mph, and he also mixes in cutters and curveballs. He also showed impressive command, with 165 strikeouts vs. 43 walks in 195 1/3 innings in 2010. Melvin called it the first of what he sees as a flurry of moves to improve the team's staff. "We have some young pitching coming along, but we didn't have someone immediately," said Melvin, who turned down a number of other offers for Lawrie that would have netted pitching prospects not ready for the Major Leagues. "We feel a lot better about our pitching staff today than we did yesterday." The talks with Toronto didn't include Marcum until relatively recently. When he became available, Melvin jumped. "Trading Shaun Marcum was not easy," Anthopoulos said. "This was our Opening Day starter in the American League East at the core of what we feel is a very strong, young rotation. I swallowed hard on it. I agonized on this trade, probably the most difficult trade I've made. You can point to the Halladay trade, but the difference was that 'Doc' was very adamant he felt it was time for a change and wanted to make a move. Shaun wasn't one of those players." The deal was met with some surprise in the lobby of the Dolphin hotel by a handful of rival executives who didn't know Lawrie was available. The Langley, British Columbia, native is coming off a solid season at Double-A Huntsville in which he batted .285 with eight home runs, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. Sixty of Lawrie's 158 hits went for extra bases, including 16 triples. Anthopoulos praised Lawrie's competitiveness and urged patience as Toronto tries to sustain a perennial winner. "He's potentially a five-tool player," Anthopoulos said. "It was somebody we thought we couldn't turn down." From the Brewers' perspective, Marcum's success will be determined by his health and how long he pitches in a Milwaukee uniform. He missed all of 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but showed no ill effects from the procedure in 2010. The Brewers are banking that he's past his injury problems. "With pitchers, you never know," Melvin said. "A pitcher could throw one pitch and it's over with. With Shaun, he's a hard worker. You obviously hope for health with any pitcher." Marcum was encouraged by his 2010 season. "Going from zero innings to 195 was a little more than I expected, but the good thing was that as the season was winding down in September ... I was feeling stronger than I did earlier in the season or at the All-Star break," he said. "It was nice to see how my arm came back." On the contract front, Marcum is Brewers property at least through the 2012 season. Anthopoulos wouldn't talk about his own efforts to sign Marcum to an extension, and Melvin said the prospect of similar talks between the Brewers and Marcum did "not necessarily" come into play during talks. "I'd like to meet him first," Melvin said. "We're always open to extensions. Sometimes they don't happen. It's obvious that we've got some players now that it hasn't happened with. We'll wait and see." Marcum said he is open to the idea of an extension with Milwaukee. "My agent is down there right now, and he asked me [on Sunday] if I would be open to it, and I told him yes," Marcum said. "I've been to Milwaukee's stadium and seen the guys they have and know the direction they're going. I know the kind of fan support they get. It's something I'm definitely interested in." Anthopoulos was able to shop Marcum this winter because of the team's relative depth in the starting rotation. The Blue Jays have right-hander Brandon Morrow and left-handers Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil at the top of the rotation. At the back end, the club can choose two pitchers from a young group that includes right-handers Kyle Drabek, Jesse Litsch, Zach Stewart and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. Marcum, meanwhile, will adjust to a new team that plays home games a bit closer to his home in Kansas City. He had some explaining to do Monday to his young sons, particularly 4-year-old Ryan. "I was on the Internet showing them the slide," Marcum said, referring to one of Miller Park's most visible features. "Now, he wants to go down the slide."