LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Brewers sure hit the Florida ground running.Baseball's Winter Meetings began on Monday with the Brewers putting the finishing touches on a trade for Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum in a deal that will help address Milwaukee's glaring need for pitching. Marcum was in Milwaukee on Monday for a physical exam, and the Brewers and Blue Jays were expected to announce the trade at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort early Monday evening.
Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin did not respond to a telephone message, but two sources confirmed that the deal was in the works, and published reports on Tuesday said the trade had been agreed upon. Marcum reportedly is coming at a high price -- the Toronto Star and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel both said the Brewers will part with 20-year-old, Canadian-born infielder Brett Lawrie, widely considered Milwaukee's top offensive prospect.Melvin did talk to the Journal Sentinel, but only said, "I can't say anything about it, really. It's not completed yet." Players often must undergo physical exams before trades are complete. Starting pitching is atop the Brewers' winter wish list, and Marcum fits the bill. The soon-to-be 29-year-old was 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts last season for Toronto, a successful comeback after he missed the entire 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Marcum earned $850,000 last season and is eligible for salary arbitration. He has two more years of club control before reaching free agency. He has spent his entire five-year Major League career in Toronto and has a career record of 37-25 with 3.85 ERA. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos declined comment Sunday night, citing a club policy of not discussing rumors. He had the luxury of being able to shop Marcum at these Winter Meetings because of his 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. Melvin and his Brewers staffers have been scouring free-agent lists and team rosters since the end of their disappointing 2010 season and have focused on identifying starting pitching. The team finished last in the National League in starters' ERA and improved only marginally in 2010, to 15th of 16. The Brewers' top two returning pitchers are ace righty Yovani Gallardo, who earlier this year signed a contract extension through at least 2014, and left-hander Randy Wolf, who has two years left on a contract he agreed to at last year's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. The team has a cheap back-end option for the rotation in lefty Chris Narveson, who was 12-9 with a 4.99 ERA in 2010. But the other spots are up for grabs. The Brewers have already extended an offer to left-hander Chris Capuano, who returned in 2010 from two years lost to his second Tommy John surgery. Another lefty, Manny Parra, will also be back next season, but it appears he is more effective in relief. The Brewers most advanced prospects, right-handers Jeremy Jeffress and Mark Rogers, probably won't start the season in the big league rotation. The need is apparent, but it still probably hurt to part with Lawrie, the 16th overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and the highest-drafted Canadian position player ever. He turns 21 next month and spent all of 2010 at Double-A Huntsville, batting .285 with eight home runs, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. Sixty of his 158 hits went for extra bases, including 16 triples. Lawrie's departure adds some urgency to the Brewers' conversations with agent Greg Genske about a contract extension for incumbent second baseman Rickie Weeks. The Brewers only own Weeks' rights for one more season before he reaches free agency. So far, the sides have had only brief discussions. Sunday's trade sparked memories of the last time Melvin parted ways with the Brewers' consensus top prospect to acquire a pitcher. He shipped first baseman Matt LaPorta in a package of prospects to the Indians in July 2008 for CC Sabathia, who carried the Brewers into the postseason. Sabathia left via free agency after the season, and LaPorta has since played 162 games for the Indians. The Marcum trade would be the second swap between the Brewers and Blue Jays in three days. On Friday, Milwaukee sent right-handed reliever Carlos Villanueva to Toronto for a player to be named before April 1.