The Seattle Mariners are a playoff contender. Wow! It’s July and the Mariners are contending. This is amazing, so let’s just pause our lives for a moment and recognize this. The M’s are in playoff position. Incredible.
What the Seattle Mariners also are, in addition to being a contender, is a team in need of a boost. While the M’s have the luxury of not needing to look for bullpen upgrades, they could still be in the market for a mid-to-top-of-the-rotation arm. But that’s a distant second on the team’s list of needs. For the Mariners, offense is still the top priority.
What kind of hitter do the Mariners need? A good one, of course! And someone who can play outfield. If the M’s could just find an above-average hitter who can man a corner outfield spot, they’ll be in a great position. And recently a new name has emerged as a potential trade target: Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.
At first glance, this is a weird fit. Casey McGehee plays third base, which is the same position that Kyle Seager plays. Seager, of course, has been the seventh-most valuable player in baseball this year. But McGehee isn’t locked into the keystone, and it’s been speculated he’d make a fine left fielder. McGehee’s major league outfield experience: one inning in right for the 2009 Brewers. He doesn’t have zero experience, but he has zero experience.
But let’s say McGehee can handle a corner outfield spot. Look at Dustin Ackley out there! McGehee’s got to be better than Raul Ibanez, at least. McGehee’s still only 31 years old, which is probably way younger than you’d have guessed. That’s what disappearing to Japan for a few years will do to you. The question is: will he hit?
So far this year all he’s done is hit. Through 424 plate appearances, McGehee is sporting a .322/.389/.399 line, good for a 123 wRC+. That’s a well above-average offensive performance, but it’s hard to ignore that slugging percentage. Indeed, McGehee’s got two homers and a 0.77 ISO. That’s the kind of power outage that makes 2014 Robinson Cano look like Barry Bonds.
But does it matter? The Mariners need good hitters, not good power hitters. Power is a valuable tool, but we shouldn’t act as if it’s the only valuable tool. McGehee, even as a miscast outfielder with no power or defensive value, would instantly become the Mariners’ third-best hitter. Or at least, his perforance to date would.
With a .370 BABIP, McGehee is obviously getting some unsustainably good luck on balls in play. Going forward, it’s fair to expect a worse offensive performance, if not a much worse one. On the flip side, McGehee has a high walk rate. Some parts of his current performance are sustainable. Some aren’t.
Whether or not this is worth it depends on the cost to acquire. McGehee’s on a one-year deal that pays him just double the league minimum, and so far he’s been a 2.2 win player. He’s a real asset, despite being Casey McGehee. There’s a chance he couldn’t be had for less than one prospect just around the bottom of the team’s top fifteen list. He could be cheaper, but he could also be more expensive. Whatever the price, he’d be a gamble given his strangely strong offense so far.
Casey McGehee probably won’t be a Mariner. He’s not an outfielder, yet the Mariners would almost certainly acquire him to be an outfielder. He went to Japan for a few years, and has returned to post a near-elite OBP while playing every day. This is a guy with difficult value to pin down, and that means he’s less likely to be dealt. He’d help the Mariners win more games in 2014, or he wouldn’t. Which means he’d be a good acquisition, unless he sucks.