McGee, 36, is a veteran in his 13th MLB season, having previously suited up for the Rays, Rockies, Dodgers, Giants and Brewers. He signed a two-year deal with the Giants prior to the 2021 season, which went great for a while. He threw 59 2/3 innings for San Fran last year with a 2.72 ERA, 24.3% strikeout rate, 4.2% walk rate and 35.9% ground ball rate.
Unfortunately, the wheel of fortune has swung him around in the complete opposite direction this year, as he struggled badly with the Giants before being released, signing with the Brewers, struggling some more and then getting designated for assignment. Between the two clubs, he has an ERA of 7.00 on the year, with a 12.4% strikeout rate that’s barely half of what he registered last year.
In the short term, the move is sensible enough for the Nats, as they didn’t have a lefty in their bullpen prior to this move. Picking up McGee won’t cost really them anything financially, as the Giants are on the hook for the remainder of his salary with the Nats just paying the prorated league minimum.
From the big picture, however, the move is a little curious. The Nats have made a series of high profile trades in the past year-plus, shipping out Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Josh Bell and Juan Soto, clearly signaling that they have no faith in their team’s ability to compete in the near future.
In order to grab the 36-year-old McGee, the Nats won’t break the bank, but they are risking losing Donovan Casey, a 26-year-old outfielder they just acquired last year in the Scherzer/Turner deal. Casey hit .269/.329/.430 between Double-A and Triple-A last year, with 16 home runs, 26 doubles, two triples and 22 stolen bases. He got added to the club’s 40-man roster in the offseason based on that showing and was considered the #16 prospect in the system by Baseball America coming into the year.
Casey has definitely had a down season here in 2022, hitting .219/.283/.364 for a wRC+ of just 71. He’s struck out in 32.5% of his plate appearances while walking just 6.7% of the time. Still, despite that tepid showing, it’s a bit surprising to see the Nats send him out onto the waiver wire in order to grab a couple months of a veteran reliever in a season when they’re 36-75, the worst record in all of baseball. With the trade deadline now passed, the Nats will only have the option of placing Casey on outright waivers or release waivers. He has never been outrighted before in his career, nor does he have three years of MLB service time, meaning he would be ineligible to reject an outright assignment if he clears waivers.