Casey McGehee Is a Pirate

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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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

22 Responses to “Casey McGehee Is a Pirate”

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  1. Gricomet says:

    To me it feels like pretty low value for McGehee unless you assume 2011 is alot closer to his real value than his previous two seasons. Getting an about league average 3B still under team control for an ok reliever is a great deal for the Pirates.

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  2. dudley says:

    McGehee was absolutely horrendous last year. As a Brewers’ fan, getting anything at all for that waste of a roster spot is a positive outcome.

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  3. JW says:

    “Last season, National League third basemen hit .254/.311/.381.”

    I don’t know where to find the stats, but other NL third basemen hit slightly better than that. It’s probably not a meaningful difference in most cases, but it does make it slightly less likely that McGehee will rebound to become an average offensive third baseman.

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  4. gonfalon says:

    IIRC, McGehee had a sprained thumb last year, which would explain some of his hitting woes. Hopefully, the Pirates’ medical staff were given a chance to evaluate his records before making the deal.

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  5. Ender says:

    His bat speed was down last year. I don’t know if that is the thing players bounce back from or not but it was more than just slumping or having a sore thumb.

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  6. BJ says:

    Not having watched McGehee much last year it sure seems like he simply had a bad 2011 campaign. If he returns to 2009 or even 2010 form the Brewers will have made an idiotic trade. More importantly, they could have saved $12m this year.

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  7. Colm says:

    I don’t understand this article. Ramirez and Gamel are both third basemen. I haven’t read anything suggesting that Ramirez is moving to second base for the Brewers (which sounds like a lousy idea anyway). Reading between the lines, it seems you’re assuming that Gamel is going to move to first base, Ramirez will stay at his usual position of third base, and the reference to manning the keystone was a slip.

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  8. Slacker George says:

    This is a waste of Pirate organizational energy. Too much coupon-clipping will get you on a reality series, but won’t get you into the World Series.

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    • Awesome says:

      The Pirates aren’t making a WS this year no matter what, but moves like this are likely to help them break .500

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      • Slacker George says:

        I agree: they won’t make the WS this year. There focus should be on winning the WS in the future and this signing doesn’t move them closer to that. The Pirates need to improve many parts of their organization. The money can be better spent elsewhere. .500 shouldn’t be a goal for any organization, and if it is, the Pirates should fold up their tents and move. The fans can see this for what it is. Signing mediocre-at-best veterans hoping that you can flip them for something better is not a plan.

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      • CDI says:

        I’m not a Pirates fan, but this move makes sense from their perspective.The most important name mentioned in this entire article is Pedro Alvarez. This guy is an important long-term asset for the Pirates that they must nurture correctly to get maximum, long-term value (or do you want him to be the next Jose Bautista and bomb 40 a year for someone else?).

        If the best way to accomplish this is to trade a relief pitcher (the easiest commodity to acquire in all of baseball, and typically the *last* piece you get to finish your puzzle not the first) for so that Pedro can go *wherever he needs to go to fix his head* – I don’t see where the mystery lies here.

        Great move by the Pirates.

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      • CDI says:

        that was “for *anyone with a pulse that has potential to put up average 3B stats*” before the website cut it off for bad formatting choice. ;)

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    • Slacker George says:

      I should have said trading for him, not signing him. Same sentiment. Better to use his ABs on someone that has a chance on being with the team three years down the road.

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  9. maguro says:

    I don’t think Alvarez has any options left, he has be on the 25 man roster or go through waivers.

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  10. bender says:

    At first I thought the title of this article was a metaphor, then I remembered the pirates are a team

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  11. Domenic says:

    Perhaps this is something of a cop-out, but could McGehee have been a two-year fluke? Two years of MLB production is certainly very difficult to simply gloss over, particularly on the heels of a season with what appears to be poor luck with BABIP and some hand-related injuries … but there’s certainly something there.

    He was a veritable non-prospect, and his 2009 and 2010 came out of nowhere. Consider that McGehee batted .279/.332/.409 in his Minor League career, and that includes a two-plus season stint in the PCL … where he batted .282/.335/.410.

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    • Ender says:

      McGehee seems to be a really hot and cold hitter so I think looking at his entire body of work is probably the best bet and assume that part of it was just hot an part was just cold. I think the Pirates got the better player but the Brewers got a player that will help their team more for 2012 so it is a win win type scenario other than Alveraz not getting PAs.

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  12. D Brown says:

    Even if Casey is mediocre, still a good deal for the Buccos. Veras was about to be non-tendered. He’d have been the most expensive guy in the pen besides Hanrahan.

    Casey will likely get to face lefties mostly, replacing Jones or Pedro. Bucco fans will still think he’s better than either Overbay or Wood from last year.

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  13. shthar says:

    3b seems to constantly have guys appear,

    play 1-2 good seasons, and then go right in the tank

    More than any other position it seems.

    I’m too lazy to do any actual research though.

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