Well that didn’t take long. Mere hours after signing Aramis Ramirez to man the hot corner for the next three seasons, the Milwaukee Brewers traded former third baseman Casey McGehee to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Veras. While McGehee exceeded expectations with the Brewers initially — he slumped badly last season — and was eventually replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. Will a change of scenery resurrect the bat of “Mighty Casey?”
McGehee definitely made the most of his time in Milwaukee. After being claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs, McGehee jumped on his part-time opportunity in 2009 — hitting .301/.360/.499 in just 394 plate appearances. His strong performance solidified his position as a starter in 2010. That season, McGehee was voted Brewers’ MVP after hitting .285/.337/.464 with 23 home runs and 104 RBI. Things looked pretty promising for the once discarded McGehee.
Just as things were looking up, McGehee suffered a collapse last season. While his walk and strikeout rates remained about the same, McGehee saw his slash line drop to a horrid .223/.280/.346 last season. While some of his struggles can be related to a .249 BABIP, McGehee also displayed some signs of decline. After hitting fastballs pretty well throughout his career, McGehee saw a drastic decline against the pitch last season. In fact, McGehee had a negative pitch value against nearly every type of pitch last season (not counting splitters or knuckleballs, which he didn’t see enough to make a solid conclusion). While McGehee actually had a 6.6 UZR last season, McGehee isn’t known for his defensive prowess at third. It’s more than likely this is just a one year UZR anomaly.
What did the Pirates see in this guy?
McGehee can be viewed as insurance for Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez was viewed as a potential star for the Pirates until an epic collapse last season. With the acquisition of McGehee, the Pirates might give Alvarez more time in the minors before rushing him to the majors once again.
If the Pirates feel Alvarez is ready for the majors now — they can find playing time for both players by moving one to first base. Neither has a particularly strong reputation as a fielder, and a move to first could be one less thing for either player to worry about next season.
There’s also a decent chance the McGehee’s luck turns in 2012, and he becomes a valuable hitter again. Last season, National League third basemen hit .254/.311/.381. McGehee is definitely capable of exceeding those numbers if he can return to form.
For the Brewers, this marks the official start of the Mat Gamel era. For the 26-year-old Gamel, it’s time to prove he can hack it in the big leagues. While he’s mashed minor league pitching, his .222/.309/.374 line in the majors leaves a lot to be desired. Strikeouts have always been an issue for Gamel, and unless he can get them under control, he’ll never post strong averages.
In return for McGehee, the Brewers receive reliever Jose Veras. While Veras has been on four different teams the last four seasons, he has some upside. Veras strikes out nearly a batter an inning, but his career 4.80 walk rate is troubling. Even with a high walk rate, Veras was able to post a 3.50 FIP last season. He’ll be a solid addition to the Brewers’ pen provided the walk issues don’t get worse.
The move isn’t a blockbuster by any means, but it does have some decent implications. For the Brewers, the move solidifies the departure of Prince Fielder and gives Gamel a shot to prove he belongs in the majors. The Brewers also get a useful set-up man out of the deal as well. For the Pirates, McGehee is a low-risk option that could provide average production at a corner infield spot. The move also allows the Pirates to be patient with Pedro Alvarez, who proved to be overmatched in 2011. It’s not a major deal, but it should help both teams in the short term.
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