The Mets scored a bargain in signing righthanded pitcher Shaun Marcum.
For a base salary of $4 million, with another $4 million possible through various incentives, the Mets filled out their starting rotation with a veteran who has enjoyed big-league success. Even at 31, Marcum brings more upside than many of the pitching options left on the board.
But there's a reason that Marcum came at such a discount. And Wednesday, when the team officially announced its only major-league signing of the offseason so far, the Mets' newest pitcher tried to quell concerns about his lengthy injury history.
Said Marcum: "The way I'm feeling right now, I know there's no doubt in my mind that I'm going to go out there and make all my starts and be healthy."
Marcum missed 2009 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. His issues resurfaced again last season with the Brewers, when he spent two months on the disabled list with tightness in his right elbow, which led to additional questions about his shoulder.
"The health, quite frankly, is scary," a rival talent evaluator said.
Nevertheless, the evaluator also praised Marcum's upside, suggesting that he might become a trade commodity by midseason if he can stay healthy enough to stick in the starting rotation.
Marcum insists that he's had no issues since coming back to pitch last year. He hopes a revamped throwing program will help him make more than 30 starts and throw more than 200 innings for just the second time in his career.
"They're giving me the opportunity to do that and I couldn't pass it up," said Marcum, who was drawn to the Mets by the prospect of a rotation spot.
Marcum represents an upgrade from veteran Chris Young, who bounced back from shoulder woes to help solidify the back end of last year's rotation.
Just like Young, Marcum leans on his savvy to get hitters out. But despite a fastball that tops out in the high 80s and his profile as an extreme fly-ball pitcher, Marcum has been productive when healthy. He's 33-19 with a 3.62 ERA in 520 innings his last three seasons.
Marcum said that J.P. Ricciardi, the Mets' special assistant to the general manager, played a role in the signing. It was Ricciardi, during his tenure as GM of the Blue Jays, who drafted Marcum in the third round of the 2003 draft.
Marcum is also familiar with projected starting catcher John Buck, a former teammate with Toronto. When Marcum went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 2010, a season he still considers one of his best, it was Buck who called the signals behind the plate.
Said Marcum: "John already knows how I pitch and what I like to do."