The Milwaukee Brewers have completely overhauled their least valuable position in 2011; third base. Although Yuniesky Betancourt is the punch line of many baseball jokes, he wasn’t quite as abysmal as Casey McGehee (68 wRC+). Yet, the team gave him a whopping 600 at-bats. Don’t be fooled by the marginal 0.3 WAR, because that was on the back of a high and undeserved UZR. He has always made poor marks with the defensive metrics, and he once again failed the eye test miserably last season. McGehee was honestly worth around -1 WAR, which isn’t ideal for a guy who gets that many chances to hit (or to make outs).
There aren’t many enticing options at the hot corner, but the Brewers were able to snag the man who was easily the best option out there on the FA market. Aramis Ramirez may not be able to play well on defense, but this 33-year-old can hit. He was the third best offensive 3B last season and was worth 3.6 WAR despite some awful defense (-9.4 UZR). 18 fans on FanGraphs project A-Ram to be worth 2.9 WAR, the Marcel system 2.3 WAR, and Bill James projections have him at 2.3 WAR.
I honestly think Ramirez’s value is right around the fan projections, which means that about $35.5 million (took the average from $34 and $37 million) over three seasons (about 2.3 WAR per season) is fair value. However, that is assuming Ramirez will be completely healthy during the span of this deal. He will be 36 during the last year of his deal, which obviously decreases the chances of him being able to hold up.
A couple of realizations back the Brewers reasoning for this risk, and one of these is positional value. There aren’t many good offensive third basemen out there, and the best offensive third basemen last season were Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre (134 wRC+). Both of those guys play much better defense and aren’t incompetent on the basepaths, but it is still tough to find a guy who is just behind them in terms of offensive talent. Another thing is that the Brewers desperately needed an upgrade at third, because these guys are the favorites to win the NL Central next season (Phat Albert’s gone).
After signing A-Ram, the Milwaukee Brewers shipped out Casey McGehee to the Pittsburgh Pirates just hours later. McGehee is an interesting player, mainly because his steep decline between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Two years ago, the former no-name prospect who just received a second chance with the Cubs, was lauded as a rising star (3.3 WAR, 104 RBIs). However, he is now labeled as “trash” and a “waste of a roster spot” by Brewers fans. As stated earlier, his nondescript 0.3 WAR actually flattered him. That 6.6 UZR was a total anomaly and further illustrates the limitations of the defensive metric. It’s a great stat, but it takes five years or so to normalize. Over his career, McGehee has been an awful defensive player; it isn’t like he passes the “eye test” either.
After posting wRC+ totals over 110 the previous two seasons, McGehee fell flat and had a .280 OBP. Although his .248 BABIP was filled with poor luck, it wasn’t like he was doing anything else well at all. His ISO bottomed out to .123, and he struck out more. He has quite a few traits in-line with a declining player, but the stats show signs of a player who is merely suffering from some awful luck.
Using the Simple WAR Calculator, Bill James projects him to be worth a little lower than 1 WAR. The 12 fans on FanGraphs who submitted projections have him at around 1.2 WAR, and I will once again side with the fans on this one. He is a below-average starting third baseman who has the chance to be average. This season will surely tell us whether or not 2009 and 2010 were the means, or whether the “regression” will be closer to what he achieved in 2011. I use the word “achieved” loosely, but I also believe that the above projection made by the fans is quite accurate at this point.
It seems like the Pirates will use McGehee as insurance for Pedro Alvarez, but there is the chance that McGehee ends up being a league-average starting third baseman for the Bucs. The average third baseman gets on base at a meager .311 clip, so it won’t take that much for McGehee to be a league-average hitter again. However, his poor defense and speed are liabilities to any ballclub and will undoubtedly hinder his quest for average-ness.
The Pirates sent reliever Jose Veras to the Brewers for McGehee, so I honestly like this trade for the Pirates. Veras is an average middle reliever who walks too many batters despite the gaudy strikeout totals. Obtaining a player who has a chance to be worth 3 WAR for a mediocre reliever is a pretty good deal for a rebuilding team. Likewise, this was a solid deal for the Brewers. McGehee was really just a spare part after the Aramis Ramirez signing, so the Brewers decided to dump