MLB Free Agency: Pittsburgh Pirates Should Strongly Pursue Shaun Marcum

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIJanuary 15, 2013

The Bucs should bring in Marcum
The Bucs should bring in MarcumDavid Welker/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates should make a concerted effort to sign free-agent pitcher Shaun Marcum.

In the wake of the Francisco Liriano injury that may result in the Pirates backing away from signing the 29-year-old lefty, there are still other solid options out there to save the rotation.

While the team would be sacrificing a left-handed starter, should it decide to move on from Liriano, it would still have both Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke in the mix.

Consider this: In 2012, Liriano owned an ERA of 5.34 between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, carrying a 1.468 WHIP on the season with it.

Of course, in his 19 interleague games, Liriano is 9-5 with a 3.31 ERA and a 1.120 WHIP.

Thirteen of Liriano’s interleague games have come against the National League Central. In those 13 games, he is 6-4 (.600 winning percentage) with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.103 WHIP.

Meanwhile, Shaun Marcum has faced the NL Central 21 times in his career, during which he has posted an 8-5 record (.620 winning percentage) with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.175 WHIP.

Pretty comparable statistics, wouldn’t you say?

While Liriano is more of a strikeout pitcher (9.1 K/9 career average) than Marcum is (7.3 career K/9 ratio), Marcum has shown more control in his career, walking fewer batters with his 2.8 BB/9 ratio versus Liriano’s 3.8 BB/9.

In terms of cost, the Pirates had reached a preliminary deal with Liriano for two years and roughly $14 million. Last season, Marcum earned $7.7 million in an injury-shortened season.

Despite the fact that Marcum finished 2012 with three quality starts against the Nationals, Reds and Padres (he went 2-0 in that stretch), Marcum won’t likely be able to demand a tremendous pay increase, if any. His 3.70 ERA last season was the highest he’s owned since 2007 with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he posted a 4.13 ERA in 38 games (25 starts).

Additionally, his 1.266 WHIP was the highest of his career since dating back to 2006, where, in 21 games, he posted a 1.596 WHIP.

So, why would the Pirates want to roll the dice on Marcum?

Well, first of all, he is healthy and Liriano is not.

Secondly, in his final three games of the season, Marcum dropped his ERA from 3.91 on September 15 to 3.70 on October 1 after facing two teams with the best records in baseball: the Nationals and the Reds, and then the Padres.

With such a tight division as the NL Central, the focus has to be pitching, obviously.

Bringing in a player like Marcum will only help the Pirates compete against tough pitching staffs like the Reds and Cardinals while at the same time weakening a division opponent in the Brewers by taking away one of their better starters.