The trade talks involving the Brewers and the Chicago White Sox have involved Chicago 2B/3B Gordon Beckham, which has made some wonder what that could mean for Casey McGehee. Before we needlessly get into a trade rumor that may or may not have any basis in reality, let’s talk a little bit about how valuable Casey McGehee actually is.
After a blistering start – a .402 wOBA in April – and a pretty decent May – .354 wOBA – McGehee has really cooled down. He had an awful June, characterized by minimal power and a .250 BABIP. His overall line that month was .223/.295/.362, leading to a terrible .277 wOBA. He hasn’t been much better this month – the BABIP is up to .294 but the power is way down, resulting in a .254/.309/.349 line and a .296 wOBA.
McGehee is a long way from the guy that some people thought deserved All-Star consideration now. His line of .271/.335/.443 is decent, especially given the leaguewide offensive implosion this season. However, his AVG/OBP are down about 30 points each, and the SLG is down 50, which is completely unsurprising for a slow player coming off a season with a BABIP about 30 points above league average.
So, what kind of player are we looking at? That wOBA of .336 is decent, about 110% of the league average. An average third baseman with that line is worth about 3 WAR. That’s a well above average player and a pretty solid asset, particularly before arbitration, and McGehee won’t hit arbitration until the 2012 season.
The sticking point, then, has to be defense. McGehee seemingly has a decent reputation, but I’m not sure what that’s based on. He does seem to be solid at fielding the bunt and the ball right at him, but his range seems limited and his arm can be wonky at times. Ultimate Zone Rating has his range as quite poor. In almost 1300 innings at the position – not a huge sample, but not tiny, it’s about a season and a quarter – McGehee has a -14 UZR/150. That’s very bad, but not quite 2007 Ryan Braun bad. It’s not enough of a sample to be conclusive, though, and there are certainly reasons to be skeptical of defensive metrics. Still, both between the eye test and the numbers, I have a hard time believing McGehee to be an average fielder.
It’s very hard to nail down defensive value, and career offensive stats aren’t fantastic predictors of future statistics either, particularly only 800 plate appearances into a career. Given McGehee’s unimpressive minor league numbers, ZiPS only projects a .324 wOBA for the rest of the season, effectively average in this “year of the pitcher” league.
Again, it all comes down to defense. If McGehee is as bad as the numbers say, around -15 runs per season at 3B, he’s a below average player and certainly not a significant piece of Milwaukee’s future. If he’s an average fielder, he’s a league average player and a decent asset, particularly next year when he will still be cheap. I do feel confident in saying that he’s not the All-Star that his April may have suggested.
My personal opinion of his defense, as I hinted above, is that he would fall in the -5 to -15 runs per season defensive range. If he hits at his ZiPS projection, that makes him a 0.7-1.7 win player, and if he hits at his season numbers to date, a 1.2-2.2 win player. The top end of that range is decent, and McGehee can still be a solid player, but there’s also the chance the he collapses at the plate. Right now, McGehee is an interesting asset, but not a player worth investing a significant portion of the future on.