A one-year sojourn to play in Japan has paid off for Casey McGehee, who agreed to a one-year deal on Wednesday to play third base for the Marlins in 2014.
The 31-year-old infielder spent the 2013 season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and he helped lead the club to the Japan Series Championship in its ninth season. McGehee appeared in all 144 regular-season games -- he surmised 125-130 of them were at third base -- batting .292 with 28 home runs, 30 doubles and 93 RBIs. In 11 postseason games, he hit .289 with a home run and two RBIs.
"The whole time that I was going through this process, I think in the back of my mind I was really hoping to get a chance back in the big leagues," McGehee said on Wednesday. "I wasn't going to take just any situation; I had to feel like it was going to be a good fit for myself and for the organization as well. The situation I found myself in, I couldn't have asked for a better one."
McGehee said he entered free agency with an eye on the Marlins because of the opportunity at third base, and once a mutual interest became evident, the deal came together quickly.
"Even before he went to Japan, the feedback we had gotten is just a tremendous teammate and a leader of men on clubs," said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill. "Wherever he's been, he's been respected, and we felt like bringing that type of person and player on our club ... is just consistent with what we've been trying to do this offseason in trying to upgrade our talent on the field."
In a corresponding move, Miami designated catcher Kyle Skipworth for assignment. Skipworth had been the team's No. 1 pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, but he played in just a handful of Major League games during the 2013 season.
McGehee -- who has played first, second and third base in the Majors -- last played in the big leagues in 2012 with the Yankees. He appeared in a combined 114 games between the Pirates and Yanks that season, batting .217 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs. McGehee had a career year in '10, when he hit .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBIs with the Brewers.
McGehee admitted that after his promising start in Milwaukee, he may have tried to "jump to the next level completely instead of progressing at a reasonable pace" and tried to incorporate aspects into his game that were beyond his skill set. In Japan, he said, he matured in his approach and rediscovered his confidence at the plate.
"Nothing physical, it was mostly just things that were in my head," McGehee said. "I committed to being really stubborn in my approach at the plate and things coming off that. That was something that really helped me a lot -- sticking to my game plan and not trying to do too much and take what was there. The home runs and stuff showed up a lot more when I didn't go up with that as the sole purpose of my at-bat."
With the one-year deal, McGehee can essentially serve as a placeholder for third baseman Colin Moran, the Marlins' first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and No. 4 overall prospect.
"Moran definitely has an influence in our decision-making process," Hill said. "Obviously, we invested a lot in him with the sixth pick overall. We didn't want to rush him. We want to give him the time he needs to develop, so we feel he's ready to produce at the Major League level. We wanted a flexible piece and we signed Casey McGehee to be our everyday third baseman, but we know we can do other things if need be. That's not the plan, but we do know we have the ability with him, if push comes to shove, and we need to do something there."