One of the quiet Detroit Tigers signings this offseason was Casey McGehee.
But this third baseman has been anything but quiet during spring training. McGehee has been an impressive force at the plate. Hitting .316/.440/.579 with an OPS of 1.019, McGehee has proved that he has what it takes to add to a team. Along with those respectable numbers, McGehee has one home run, two doubles, five walks and he has scored six runs. Since no one was quite sure what he would bring to Lakeland, his numbers have been a pleasant surprise.
To put his numbers into perspective, they are nearly the same as Miguel Cabrera‘s .316/.440/.632 and OPS of 1.072. Cabrera’s biggest difference is the second home run and one more RBI. They also share the same number of walks.
McGehee was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2003 out of California State University in Fresno. He moved through the Cubs minor league system before making his debut with the team in 2008.
In 2009, he was released by the Cubs and signed on waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. He stayed with the Brewers until 2011, when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who traded him at the 2012 deadline to the New York Yankees. At the end of the 2012 season, he became a free agent and he eventually signed with the Miami Marlins. He did not play in the MLB 2013, but returned to the Marlins in 2014 until he was traded to the San Francisco Giants, who then released him in 2015. He was picked up by the Marlins, who later released him as a free agent in November. The Tigers signed him in February 2016.
McGehee has received a few honors for his performances on the diamond. He was awarded the NL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2014. During that season, he finished fourth in hits (177), second in at-bats (616), and first in defensive games at third base (158). He has proven to be a durable player on offense and defense. This is certainly something that the Tigers need.
McGehee has seen his fair share of teams, but that has not soured him. When he was designed for assignment by the Giants, he took time to talk to his replacement at third base – Matt Duffy. According to an article from our sister site, Golden Gate Sports, McGehee “told Duffy that he shouldn’€™t feel bad, because he did nothing wrong. He played his game and forced the issue.” This is the sign of a good teammate, who understands the ups and downs of the game.
In 2013, McGehee could not find a team to take him, so he played a year in Japan for the Rakutan Golden Eagles. After a pair of weak seasons in 2011 and 2012, he needed time away from the MLB to get his stuff back. His 2011 and 2012 slash was a combined .221/.282/.351 with 22 home runs. Prior to those two seasons, McGehee regularly hit more than 20 home runs per season. His power and consistency returned while in Japan where he hit 28 home runs with a slash of .292/.371/.512.
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Defensively, he manages third base well. Since the Tigers are often criticized for having a relatively weak defensive third-baseman, McGehee could provide some much needed veteran experience. Last year, he committed a total of seven errors, but he was bounced between Miami and San Francisco and then back to Miami, never getting a good feel for his home field. In comparison, Nick Castellanos committed 12 errors in 2015.
McGehee is an imposing player, measuring 6’1 and weighing 220. For comparison, Castellanos is 6’4 and 210. McGehee turned 33 years old in October. He bats right. He is married and has two children. In Miami, he earned the nickname “Hits McGehee.”
McGehee has gotten positive attention due his spring training performance in the Grapefruit League. Offensively, he has outplayed Castellanos, who has a slash of .250/.250/.350 with an OPS of .600. Castellanos has had more at-bats with six strikeouts (McGehee has had one) and no home runs. He also out-performed Castellanos defensively during spring training, with 41 innings at the third and 6 innings at first base.
Although most believe that McGehee is destined to play in Toledo, his performance during spring training could make the decision-makers think twice after where to put him in the regular season.