Apr 5, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee (9) connects for a base hit during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Marlins Ballpark. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
Remember Casey McGehee? If you are a Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers or (perhaps) New York Yankees or Pittsburgh Pirates fan you might. The veteran third baseman spent parts of six seasons with the aforementioned clubs, peaking with a 2010 in which he mashed 23 dingers and plated 104 RBI with the Brewers.
Then he fizzled. His 2010 power proved to be a fluke and by the end of 2012 McGehee found himself out of an MLB job. He spent 2013 with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, hoping to revive his career and catch the eye of some team, any team, back stateside.
The Japan experiment was a success and McGehee quickly became one of the most popular American players in the league. Sure, the quality of competition in Japan isn’t quite up to par with MLB, but looking at McGehee’s numbers it was apparent that he still had plenty in the tank. In 590 plate appearances his slash line was a quality .292/.376/.515, and he led the team with a .891 OPS and 28 home runs.
That was enough for the Miami Marlins to come calling.
I know what you’re thinking. The Marlins sign another washed up, cheap bust to plug into their laughable lineup and hope for the best. We’ve seen it myriad times during the Jeffrey Loria regime. Sometimes it worked, most times it went about how you’d expect. Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre last year. Mike Cameron in 2011. Jorge Cantu in 2008 (that one worked for a while, kind of.) Let’s all point and laugh at the Marlins!
Well, maybe this was actually a great signing. So far in 2014 — small sample size alert! — McGehee has the 4th most RBI in baseball (10), to go with a .375 average, four doubles (T-1st in the National League) and a 1.092 OPS. That’s good for a respectable 206 OPS+! Sure, he has amassed all of 30 plate appearances, but those numbers are night-and-day when compared to his shameful .217/.284/.358 he posted in 2012, his last big league season.
And, oh yeah, the Marlins are 5-2 right now. Through the first week of the season Miami has the best run differential (42 scored, 21 allowed) in all of baseball. It’s probably not sustainable (Adeiny Hechavarria is not going to hit .393 this year) but the Marlins, who were all but written off as one of the worst offenses in the league before the season started, are off to a hot start. And baseball analysts are taking notice.
Casey McGehee is obviously not the long-term solution in the cleanup spot protecting Giancarlo Stanton. But you have to feel great for a guy who couldn’t find a job a year ago and has shot out of the gates as one of the hottest hitters in baseball’s first week of 2014. He won’t match his 28 home run performance in Japan, largely thanks to the cavernous dimensions of Marlins Park. McGehee can, however, inject life back into his career and maybe stick around here in the states for a few more years. He is 31, so he’s not “old” just yet. And who knows, this Marlins “veteran presence” lineup might keep clicking and they could very well flirt with a wild card spot.
That should provide Casey McGehee with a little job security.