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International Free Agent Profile 2014: Casey McGehee

The utility infielder is likely to return to the United States to play ball for the 2014 season. Would he be an upgrade over other players the Mets are currently utilizing?

Maybe this technique at the plate explains his struggles?
Maybe this technique at the plate explains his struggles?
Mark Hirsch

Casey McGehee was born on October 12, 1982, the day that the team he would become most associated with won its first World Series game, shellacking the St. Louis Cardinals 10-0. The Santa Cruz native attended Soquel High School and went on to attend Fresno State University.

Playing baseball with the FSU Bulldogs, McGehee impressed scouts. As a freshman in 2001, he hit .324/.380/.474. As a sophomore, he hit .367/.412/.529, and as a junior, .346/.411/.444. Because of the slip in power in his junior year, his prospect stock took a hit. With the 283rd overall pick, the Chicago Cubs drafted the infielder with their 10th round selection in the 2003 MLB Amateur Draft.

McGehee signed a $65,000 bonus with the Cubs and was immediately assigned to the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League (A Ball) for the remainder of the 2003 season, a fairly aggressive assignment. In 64 games, he hit .272/.302/.391, good enough for a promotion in 2004 to High-A Ball. That year, he was assigned to the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League. There, he hit .261/.310/.394 in 119 games, splitting time between third base, his natural position, and catcher.

He was promoted in 2005 to the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx in the Double-A Southern League. Casey enjoyed his first real good season that year, hitting .297/.354/.422 in 124 games. He was promoted to the Iowa Cubs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2006 and had another good year, hitting .280/.336/.406.

The Cubs revived the experiment they began in 2004 and began using McGehee as a catcher once more in 2007. Sending him back down to their Double-A affiliate—then the Tennessee Smokies—the youngster split time about 50-50 between third base and catcher, but he hit .273/.338/.422. At the end of the year, the team moved him back to Iowa, where he remained for the rest of the season.

McGehee began 2008 with Iowa, spending most of his time at third base. This return to normalcy seemingly helped him at the plate, just as the chaos of the experiment had hurt him. He hit .296/.345/.429, which was good on paper and a step in the right direction but slightly below average for the PCL. That October, the Cubs left McGehee exposed to waivers, and the Milwaukee Brewers snatched him up.

Casey initially made the Brewers as a back-up infielder, but when Ryan Braun got hurt early in the season, McGehee became the Brewers' starting third baseman, as incumbent third baseman Bill Hall was moved to the outfield to fill Braun's vacancy. Later in the year, when Rickie Weeks was injured, McGehee started getting time at second base. He ended up playing 116 games in 2009, hitting .301/.360/.499 with 16 home runs and a respectable 34 walks to 67 strikeouts while splitting time at first, second, and third. The 27-year-old repeated his success in 2010, hitting .285/.337/.464 in 157 games, setting a career high with 23 home runs, and setting a Brewers record with nine consecutive hits.

McGehee proved unable to sustain his success, which came out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly. In 155 games in 2011, he hit just .223/.280/.346. His .249 BABIP dropped considerably from his 2009 and 2010 marks of .330 and .306, and his .123 ISO also was a large drop from the previous two years. Seeking to go in a different direction, the Brewers signed Aramis Ramirez to man third base and traded McGehee hours later, sending him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Jose Veras.

The corner infielder was unable to bounce back with the Pirates, hitting .230/.297/.377 in 92 games with them. At the trade deadline, he was traded yet again, this time to the New York Yankees, in exchange for Chad Qualls. McGehee did not impress in his time in the Big Apple either, hitting a frigid .151/.220/.264. All in all, for the year, splitting his time between first base and third base, McGehee hit .217/.284/.358.

In the 2012 offseason, McGehee decided to travel to Japan to find work. Though he was literally a signature away from signing with the Yomiuri Giants for more money, the 30-year-old decided to sign with the Rakuten Eagles instead, inking a deal with roughly $1.5 million. McGehee decided to go with the Eagles over the Giants—a somemewhat controversial move, as the Giants are seen as NPB's premier team—because of Rakutne's better track record with foreign players.

The Giants, he felt, were too careless and loose in how they treated foreign acquisitions, shuffling them up and down between ichi-gun (major league) and ni-gun (minor league) squadrons frequently, while the Eagles had given him assurances that manager Senichi Hoshino would be more patient if he, and other foreign players, got off to slow starts. The decision paid off for McGehee, who got the playing time he wanted, and the Eagles, who got the offensive player they wanted. For the 2013 season, McGehee hit .285/.370/.502, belting 27 home runs.

His MLB stats are as follows:

2009 26 116 394 .301 .360 .499 16 34 67 0/2
2010 27 157 670 .285 .337 .464 23 50 102 1/1
2011 28 155 600 .223 .280 .346 13 45 104 0/3
2012 29 114 352 .217 .284 .358 9 29 70 1/2

His NPB stats are as follows:

2013 30 142 583 .285 .370 .502 27 70 118 2/5

According to McGehee's agent, Barry Meister, while the infielder enjoyed his time in Japan, he still has to decide whether or not he wants to return. It is believed that McGehee went to Japan simply to rebuild his brand, to latch onto an MLB team, but he surpassed all expectations and is unsure whether or not to stay in Japan, where he is likely to make more money.

Does He Make Sense For The Mets?

The Mets are in the market for a first baseman, provided that first baseman is able to outperform Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Josh Satin, and other possible first base starters or platoon players. While McGehee certainly had himself a good season in 2013 and has demonstrated success in MLB, there is no guarantee that he can repeat any of that. As such, he would come into spring training 2014 as just a big question mark as the above mentioned players. As such, Casey isn't a particularly good fit for the team in that role, and given that he doesn't have any particular platoon splits, he isn't a possible platoon partner himself.

Teams are always looking for bench pieces, though, and McGehee could be an intriguing piece in that regard. He showed power in his first two MLB seasons, and though it disappeared in his next two, it reappeared in Japan. He almost certainly would make the MLB minimum, so from that point of view, the price would be right. The biggest question would be performance. Josh Satin, Justin Turner, and Anthony Seratelli would be his biggest sources of competition, in that all three can be utilized as pinch hitters that can play the corners and second base if emergencies arise. If Satin is used in a platoon at first base, that leaves Turner as his primary source of competition. If so, it becomes a question of risk and reward: Do you value Turner's steady but ultimately below-average offensive contributions more than the risk and potential reward of McGehee?