Mets tap free agent Marcum for rotation vacancy

By Anthony DiComo /01/24/2013 10:37 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Six weeks after trading R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, the Mets have made their move to replace him. The club has signed free-agent starter Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal pending a physical, a source told on Thursday, plugging up the vacancy in their rotation. The Mets did not confirm the deal.
Marcum, 31, went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts for the Brewers in 2012, striking out 109 batters and walking 41 in 124 innings. He missed more than two months of the season with elbow tightness, following a bout of shoulder discomfort that sidelined him during Spring Training.
Despite those health issues, Marcum has generally pitched well since undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2008 season, posting a 57-36 career record and 3.76 ERA. He will fill the spot that opened when Dickey left for Toronto, giving the Mets a five-man rotation of Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee and Marcum.
In that sense, he fits the precise mold of what Sandy Alderson described in mid-December, when the general manager vowed to replace Dickey with a quality arm.
“We don’t of course expect to go out and duplicate R.A. Dickey -- that’s not going to happen,” Alderson said at the time. “But at the same time, we’ll be looking for somebody who probably is looking for a good opportunity, somebody with some upside.”
Marcum, who posted a .634 winning percentage and 3.59 ERA for the Blue Jays and Brewers from 2010-11 -- his first two years back from Tommy John surgery -- fits that description. When healthy, he is capable of providing quality innings in the middle of a rotation.
But if Marcum cannot stay healthy, the Mets have committed to him for only one year. By midsummer, top prospect Zack Wheeler should be ready for the big leagues, potentially joining Harvey and Niese as rotation pillars for at least the next half-dozen seasons.
Relying heavily on control and command, Marcum features a mid-80s fastball and cutter and a changeup that dips into the 70s. He also throws a curveball and slider.
He will use those weapons in tackling the unenviable task of replacing Dickey, who will become the seventh Cy Young Award winner in history to begin his defense of the award with another team. In their pursuit of a replacement starter, the Mets also checked in on free agents Carl Pavano and Chris Young before ultimately settling on Marcum. Shortly after trading Dickey, Alderson said that he was looking for a pitcher accomplished enough to warrant a guaranteed rotation slot.
He found one in Marcum, even if New York’s rotation is now defined as much by health concerns as by healthy starting pitchers. In addition to Marcum’s shoulder and elbow issues, Santana has yet to produce a fully healthy season since his 2010 shoulder surgery, while Gee has not pitched since discovering a blood clot in his throwing shoulder last July.
Other concerns dot the rest of the roster as well, with less than three weeks remaining until the start of Spring Training. Still searching for a Major League-caliber outfielder, the Mets may have lost out on their final opportunity to acquire one Wednesday, when Scott Hairston signed with the Cubs. The Mets are also searching for at least one veteran reliever to round out their bullpen.