Marlins position analysis: Third base
Last offseason when the Miami Marlins looked at areas of concern, third base sat atop the list. Seven players saw time at the position, which sorely lacked production (5 HRs/51 RBI).
In mid-December, the Marlins signed Casey McGehee, who had been relegated to Japan after his five-year big-league career fizzled in 2012. He resuscitated it by batting .292 with 30 doubles, 28 homers and 93 RBI for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
It caught Miami's attention as McGehee, now 32, signed a one-year deal -- with an option for a second. But it hardly made a blip on the wire and felt like a stopgap. Colin Moran, the club's top pick in 2013, needed more time to develop but was seen as the future.
Instead, McGehee turned out to be one of the best stories of 2014. The Sporting News recently named him the National League Comeback Player of the Year for his .287 average, 29 doubles, four home runs and 76 RBI.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be breaking down the Marlins at each position -- analyzing what went right and wrong for the players that saw action there -- as well as the likelihood of their returns.
What he did right: McGehee earned the nickname #HitsMcGehee for his penchant for clutch hitting, particularly in the first half. When the Marlins needed someone to protect slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup, McGehee moved from third to fourth in the batting order. For most of the season, he paced the majors with runners in scoring position. He finished with a .319 average in those situations. Leading up to the Midsummer Classic, which he fell just short of earning a trip to as a candidate for the Final Vote, McGehee hit .319 with 21 doubles, a triple, a homer and 53 RBI. His approach of going up the middle and to the opposite field would explain his remarkable .628 average on line drives. McGehee led all NL third basemen with a .979 fielding percentage and proved his durability by starting all but three games.
Where he needs to improve: As great as McGehee hit in the first half, he posted a .243 average with eight doubles, three homers and 23 RBI after the All-Star break. Was it a matter of pitchers adjusting or him regressing to the mean? Although there were many jokes about it, McGehee's lack of power may not be sustainable enough in the cleanup spot to protect Stanton. His average on fly balls was just .126. When the pitcher was ahead in the count, McGehee batted .229. Southpaws held him to a .219 average.
Contract status: Second-year arbitration eligible ($1.1 million)
Likelihood of return: Before the season ended, president of baseball operations Michael Hill hinted -- not that it was much of a surprise -- the Marlins would likely pick up the option on McGehee. His numbers this year speak for themselves. Since the Marlins traded Moran to the Houston Astros as part of the Jarred Cosart deal, there are no other internal options. Moran was considered the third baseman of the future, but he is no longer with the organization. Kike Hernandez, the other key piece of the Astros move, appeared in three games (one start) at third in his brief time with the Marlins. A long shot would be the Marlins chasing impending free agent Pablo Sandoval to man the hot corner. If that were to be the case, would McGehee stick around and move to first?