With tonight being the deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players contracts, the Pirates and Brewers have swapped Jose Veras and Casey McGehee, two guys who seemed like likely non-tenders before midnight (it was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt, but it's been quickly confirmed by the teams).
It's ... an interesting swap, to say the least. Veras was simply going to be the odd man out in a Pirate bullpen full of right-handed options with the emergence of guys like Chris Leroux and Jared Hughes and maybe even Bryan Morris last year. The Pirates seem intent on tendering contracts to Jason Grilli and Chris Resop before midnight tonight, so paying Veras was something they probably weren't going to do.
McGehee took forever to slog his way through the Cubs' system without ever really impressing anyone, then was claimed by the Brewers off of waivers after the 2008 season. He exploded in Milwaukee in 2009, hitting .301/.360/.499 with 16 homers in 394 PAs. He followed that up in 2010 with a .285/.337/.464 line. He hit 23 homers and drove in 104 runs, which won him the "Brewers MVP" award, even though his triple-slash line left quite a bit to be desired. He then completely tanked in 2011, hitting .223/.280/.346. You will likely hear people make something of his 63 RBIs, as if being able to drive in runs with guys like Braun and Fielder and Weeks and Hart hitting in front of him makes him a good hitter, but you should ignore those things because McGehee was miserable in 2011.
That said, this seems like a decent risk to be taking, especially since they were about three hours away from getting nothing at all for Veras's beautiful curveball. McGehee has at least hit a little bit in recent history and he gives the Pirates quite a bit of flexibility in the infield. He can play third if Pedro Alvarez tanks again, he can play third if Pedro Alvarez hits well and can't play defense, he can function as an acceptable utility guy that we know has hit in the Majors in the past, unlike Josh Harrison and Yamaico Navarro, he could probably play first base if it came down to it.
All of this presupposes that he'll bounce back at least a little in 2012, which isn't a given, but I suppose getting a guy that's under 30 (McGehee turned 29 in October) with a bit of upside is better than nothing at all.
Should we be worried that McGehee's performance spike was linked to him being on the same team as Ryan Braun?
It's a pretty fair return for a guy who wasn't a key member of the pen going forward; McGehee could be part of a decent platoon at first with Jones (assuming he's tendered), and the 2010 version of McGehee is a viable everyday option. Even if Casey had a re-do of 2011, his contract isn't likely to be the worst albatross in the world. I like this deal.