The Pirates think they acquired someone with a huge upside when they dealt for corner infielder Casey McGehee. Not unreasonable optimism: He is a 29-year-old who hit .291, with 39 homers and 170 RBIs, in 2009-10. On the same day the Brewers dealt him, they signed Aramis Ramirez as his replacement at third, helping explain why McGehee was made available.
Sure, McGehee is coming off a sour season, in which he lost 62 points off his average with 10 fewer homers and 37 fewer RBIs than the season before. That’s how one-time lineup mainstays become available.
Manager Clint Hurdle implies the Bucs have been on McGehee’s case long before finally reeling him in. “For two years, we haven’t been able to get him,” Hurdle says. “He had a rough year, but I think he gives us a big shot in the arm. I’m very happy to have him.”
McGehee, however, did not come cheaply. The price to the Pirates was reliever Jose Veras, who had ranked second in the NL with 79 appearances in which he was pretty valuable. How valuable? The Pirates went 40-39 in those games.
But they may just have found a replacement for Veras the other day, in one of those low-profile signings that are typical for this late stage of the offseason. Righty reliever Juan Cruz was one of about a dozen free agents last week to sign Minor League contracts that came with invitations to Spring Training.
Don’t read Cruz’s prospects into his “non-roster” status. The Pirates couldn’t offer him a more secure deal because, at 40, their Major League roster is filled to capacity. You bring guys like him into camp and if they show you their goods, you make the necessary roster moves to create room.
Cruz has had some notable dips in his career graph but overall has been a major bullpen weapon for 11 years. The Tampa Bay Rays are experts at career revivals, and they turned Cruz into one of their successful projects last season. Although often used in mop-up roles, he did post a 3.88 ERA in 56 outings and was perfect in five decisions.
That marked the fourth time in eight years that Cruz had a sub-4.00 ERA in 50-plus appearances.
He could go quickly from afterthought to the forefront.