Jose Castillo started 90 games for the 2008 Giants. He was the gap between Pedro Feliz and Pablo Sandoval, and he was completely boring. He hit dingers occasionally, but not enough. He wasn't good defensively, but he wasn't awful. He didn't hit for average, but he never threatened the Mendoza Line. He's referenced a lot around here as shorthand for "the era after Barry Bonds and before the Giants started winning a bunch of World Series," but he wasn't a villain. He was just an uninspired choice to play third base.
That's what Casey McGehee was supposed to be for the Marlins last year -- a boring placeholder you kinda heard of once. It's not an idle comparison.
|Jose Castillo, final two seasons
|Casey McGehee, final two seasons before Japan
Castillo was 27 in his final season; McGehee was 29. Castillo went to Japan and did well for a season; McGehee went to Japan and remembered how to hit. Then they both disappeared and never returned.
At least, that's what was supposed to happen. Instead, McGehee came back to the States and had a strange, productive season. He hit 28 dingers in Japan and showed power before that with the Brewers, but as soon as he got to the Marlins, he turned into the best parts of Mike Fontenot. McGehee hit .287, which is mighty fine. He had a .355 on-base percentage, which is mighty fine. He hit as many home runs as Madison Bumgarner in 550 more at-bats, which isn't so fine. Maybe the dancing flamingos ate his power because they need power to live so they consume the power of other living things to absorb their power and become even more powerful.
That lack of power, though -- combined with his age, lack of defensive acumen, and inconsistent history -- made him cheap enough that the Giants were willing to trade for him, though. If he has a solid season, we should praise that Miami power outage. That's why he was available in a trade in the first place. With a 20-homer season, there's something of a bidding war on the trade market. With a four-homer season, he's available to anyone willing to part with a couple of B- prospects.
A return of the dingers is what the Giants are gambling on, if I had to guess. McGehee's power wasn't confiscated by customs when he returned from Japan, and the four-homer power makes no sense. At every stop as a professional, he's shown at least a little power, and if he combined that with his above-average patience and contact, boy howdy, that's a fine stopgap for a season.
There are concerns. Such as the 31 freaking double plays he hit into last year, which made him one of only 12 players in the last 50 years to hit into over 30 double plays in a season. That's the bad news. That seems ... undesireable.
The good news is that every single one of the other 11 made an All-Star team at least once in his career. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame. So, what, you think that McGehee is some kind of "outlier," or that this stat doesn't "mean" anything? Seems like a valuable clue to me. You know who picks the All-Star reserves, right? This is going to be a big first half for McGehee. Science has told us as much.
Now that the offseason opium is out of our system and we've detoxed, I'm okay with McGehee instead of Chase Headley for four years. There's a recent upside to Headley that's hard to forget, but the $47 million saved will help the Giants go after
James Shields Yoan Moncada Yoan Lopez Hector Olivera, or perhaps finish in second for a player on next year's market. Sky's the limit. And what if the Giants are right? What if McGehee finds those extra 10 or 15 dingers in a pair of old pants and still hits close to .300 with a healthy amount of walks? He'd be something of a cult favorite almost immediately. Think Melky Cabrera without the bad parts.
Of course, that's kind of a nonsensical, overly optimistic comparison. McGehee is almost certainly not going to hit .300 with his Brewers power again. There's no reason to make a proclamation like that other than blind optimism, which even I can't do here. He's basically Jose Castillo with a twist ending you didn't expect. I'll predict the Giants are right about the power, but that everything else slips a bit.Still a solid player. Certainly not the problem.
That one stolen base will win a game. you'll see.