Casey McGehee is not the long-term answer at third base


Marlins’ third baseman Casey McGehee has largely been smoke-and-mirrors this season. With his average deceptively sitting above or near .300 all year, baseball fans have been fooled into thinking the Marlins now have an elite hitter to man the hot corner for years to come, who has enjoyed a resurgent season after flaming out in 2012 and spending a year in Japan rediscovering his swing.

That is simply not the case. As I write this, McGehee’s slash line sits at .293/.361/.369/.729. Those numbers appear to be league average or better, but misleading when you take a deeper look.

Those last 152 plate appearances reflect the Casey McGehee of old, who struggled mightily two years ago with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees before being cut loose.

The argument for McGehee — who, you might remember earned a certain nickname for his propensity for coming up with “hits” — is that he has been one of the best clutch hitters in baseball. At one point this season he led the National League in average with runners in scoring position, an asinine statistic that TV analysts won’t shut up about for some reason.

Anyone with a basic understanding of advanced metrics could have surmised that his average was unsustainable. He was just extremely lucky the first few months of the year, with balls finding holes all over the place. But now, he is regressing to his mean and being snubbed more regularly by the BABIP gods (batting average on balls in play).

He also leads the league having grounded into 25 double plays.

Even with his recent struggles McGehee still owns an absurd .341 BABIP, which shows just how incredibly lucky he was before the All-Star break. I’m not saying that McGehee hasn’t been solid this year, but it scares me to think the Marlins made a rather big trade at the deadline with this thought in mind:

If they are thinking of extending McGehee, that would be a bad, bad move. He is 31 and enjoying a career year where he has the luxury of hitting right behind Giancarlo Stanton. After hitting 28 home runs in Japan last year, McGehee has three this year. Three. He has walked at a decent enough rate of 9.9 %, but teams have been more inclined to pitch to Garrett Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind him.

The Casey McGehee experiment has been fun, but there is no reason to believe we will get the same Casey McGehee next year and beyond. The Marlins fortunately didn’t part with any of their excellent pitching depth this year, and in fact brought in another quality starter in Jarred Cosart. This offseason, the Marlins should look to make a deal for a younger third base option since Colin Moran is now gone and Zack Cox no longer looks promising.

2015’s free agent third baseman class will be pretty thin, with Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval likely the biggest highlights, so a trade would be the best option.

The Marlins have said they want to invest in cost-controlled young players, and they have the pitching pieces in the minors that would give other clubs reason to pick up the phone.

They could make a run at someone like Adrian Beltre, but that would probably only be a two-year rental as Beltre would demand more money than the Marlins would be able to muster to extend him. In that scenario, the Marlins would have to be serious about making a playoff run immediately, as Stanton could be gone by then, too.

It’s been a long time since the Marlins have fielded a quality long-term third baseman, and Casey McGehee will not end that streak that began when Miguel Cabrera was shipped to Detroit after 2007.

Perhaps they could look at an Anthony Rendon or Nick Castellanos, two young players who have had success in their albeit brief time in the big leagues. Either player would require a hefty return — especially with the NL East implications that would come with trading with the Washington Nationals — but the Marlins don’t have a lot of options moving forward. Drafting another 3B in 2015 would mean fielding rentals at the position for at least a couple more years. Either that or continuing the circus that has been the Derek Dietrich/Donovan Solano/Ed Lucas combination these past two years.

Hopefully someone in the Marlins front office realizes Casey McGehee is not going to hit .300 forever and they invest their money elsewhere.