Longtime MLB reliever Jake McGee is retiring, he tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 36-year-old said he’ll return to Tropicana Field at some point next season to celebrate his time with the Rays’ organization.
“I feel like it’s kind of the right time,” McGee said. “I’d rather be at home with my family. I played 13 years. I won a World Series in ‘20. It’s about time to stop. I don’t want to grind it out and keep bouncing around and stuff like that.” He tells Topkin that a combination of ongoing knee issues and a desire to spend more time with his wife and their daughter contributed to his decision to step away at this point.
McGee entered the professional ranks nearly two decades ago. Drafted by the then-Devil Rays in the fifth round in 2004 out of a Nevada high school, he spent a few seasons climbing the minor league ladder as a starting pitcher. He thrice appeared among Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list, peaking at 15th heading into the 2008 season. While initial reports of a potential future as a top-of-the-rotation starter didn’t materialize — perhaps in part due to a 2008 Tommy John procedure — McGee took off upon moving to the bullpen in 2010.
The southpaw made his big league debut as a September call-up that year, not long after his 24th birthday. He bounced on and off the MLB roster the following season and carved out a permanent bullpen role by 2012. McGee posted a sparkling 1.95 ERA with a massive 34.4% strikeout rate across 55 1/3 innings, kicking off a few seasons as one of the game’s best relief weapons.
Over a three-year stretch from 2012-14, McGee avoided the injured list and soaked up 189 1/3 frames of 2.61 ERA ball. His 31.9% strikeout percentage over that run ranked 13th among relievers with 100+ innings and only seven relievers had a larger gap between their strikeout and walk rates. While he never made an All-Star team, he was clearly among the sport’s top high-leverage arms.
The 2015 season was McGee’s final with the Rays. It proved a challenge, as he was delayed to start the year by offseason elbow surgery and tore the meniscus in his left knee late in the season. When healthy enough to take the mound, he had another excellent showing. McGee twirled 37 1/3 innings with a 2.41 ERA and 32.7% strikeout percentage.
With Tampa Bay coming off an 80-82 record and McGee two seasons from free agency, he became one of the following offseason’s more intriguing trade chips. The Rays eventually packaged him with then-prospect Germán Márquez to the Rockies for outfielder Corey Dickerson and minor league infielder Kevin Padlo. The deal paid particular dividends for Colorado with Márquez’s emergence into staff ace, but McGee himself had a solid run early in his time there.
After a disappointing 4.73 ERA showing during his first season as a Rockie, he bounced back to the tune of a 3.61 mark across 57 1/3 innings in 2017 — helping the team to a Wild Card berth. That’s no small feat in the sport’s most hitter-friendly home venue, and the Rox kept him around via free agency. He signed a three-year, $27MM deal over the 2017-18 offseason, part of a bullpen spending spree that also saw Colorado bring in Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis.
That didn’t pan out as the organization hoped. Each of Shaw, McGee and Davis struggled to varying degrees. Home runs became a particular issues in McGee’s case, as his heavy reliance on four-seam fastballs up in the strike zone lost effectiveness when his velocity dipped a couple ticks during the 2018-19 seasons. The Rockies released McGee two seasons into the contract, but he promptly kicked off a late-career renaissance with a pair of division rivals.
Signing with the Dodgers for the shortened 2020 campaign, McGee ranked fifth among qualified relievers with a 41.8% strikeout rate over 24 outings. He saw some action in both the Championship Series and the World Series, getting into one game during a Fall Classic against his original organization. The Dodgers defeated the Rays in six games to win the only championship of McGee’s career, though he was part of another very successful club in San Francisco the next season.
He inked a two-year, $7MM deal with the Giants. During the first season, he picked up mostly where he’d left off in L.A. McGee’s strikeouts fell back to 24.3%, but he was among the game’s stingiest at avoiding walks and posted a 2.72 ERA through 59 2/3 innings. He assumed the closing role for a good chunk of the year, saving 31 of San Francisco’s 107 wins. The Giants edged out the Dodgers in a tight NL West race but saw L.A. get their revenge in a five-game Division Series that October.
The 2022 season, which’ll prove to be McGee’s last, was a struggle. He was hit hard through 24 contests in San Francisco, leading to his release in July. The veteran caught on briefly with the Brewers and Nationals at points during the second half but didn’t find much success at either stop. His final outing came in early September before Washington released him.
While he didn’t punctuate things with a great season, McGee steps away with a very strong body of work. He pitched for six different clubs over a 13-year MLB career, posting a cumulative 3.71 ERA through 572 1/3 innings. He struck out 613 of the 2359 batters he faced, a strong 26% clip. McGee finished 182 contests and collected 79 saves while holding 141 more leads and was credited with 32 wins. He had five separate seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA and four years in which he fanned upwards of 30% of opponents. According to Baseball Reference, he collected more than $37MM in earnings along the way.
MLBTR congratulates McGee on an excellent run and wishes him the best in his post-playing days.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
Solid career as a LH BP arm.
The hot stove is heatin up!
As a Reno native and Giants fan, I had no idea he went to high school in Reno. Had I known, I would have been 10% more excited when he was saving games for the 2021 Giants — and maybe 10% less frustrated when he was pooping the bed in his final stretch as a Giant
Reno native here as well. I believe he went to HS in Sparks if I recall. Solid career. Made over $48 million..
Reed HS in Sparks
That’s right. Thanks.
I always wanted to check out an Aces game when they began play. I lived in Reno at the time and watched the stadium construction timelapse online. Wasn’t thrilled they were Diamondbacks affiliates, and that a AAA team would get a sub 10,000 seat stadium.
Never made it before moving. Brett Butler would’ve brought this Dodger fan in though, for sure.
Decent career, made his money and won a ring. With the 3 batter rule i imagine we won’t be seeing many lefty relievers playing well into their 40’s anymore
13 years. 1 World Series Title. $48M in earnings. Nice run! Congratulations and enjoy your retirement!
See you in Cooperstown, Jake.
There is always one snarky commenter that likes to kick a guy on the way out the door. Way to be that commenter, I’m sure you’ve achieved as much as Jake has.
Solid career for the guy, best of luck to him with what comes next.
He said “see you in Cooperstown,” sounds like he gave McGee a lot more praise than you did. Don’t be so negative.
What a great 2021 he had!
2022 was bad but a lot of things went wrong for the Giants last year.
Good for him on retirement.
Long career, good success.
Great to see him have a bit of a resurgence after injuries. Also great to see him play for my Nats as well before hanging up the gear.
I am sensing a MLBTR chat candidate…
In the making*
“I won a World Series in ‘20”. What did he do in the WS? Anything?
Much more than you.
Was part of the team, and pitched a scoreless inning, much more then you could do.
But also more than both of you, so everyone breaks even!
You might’ve noticed in the article above that his name was printed in red and underlined. That indicated a link. Had you clicked on it, it would’ve opened his stats page at Baseball Reference, where you then could’ve scrolled down to his postseason stats and found the answer to your question.
The folks here at MLBTR are very accommodating that way.
Thank you spazie boys.
You’re welcome. I’m always happy to help people who don’t know how useful features of the internet work.
Hey I just noticed “Fink Ployd” is a play on words! Did you come up with that during a break between classes at Harvard?
You misspelled “Ployed” — but you were very close.
At Harvard they call them “focuses”
Interesting how pro athletes in their mid to late 30’s suddenly find a need to spend more time with their wife and kids.
It’s like a seesaw; on one end is making millions of dollars at the cost of being gone 7+ months out of the year, and the other end is kicking back with their families and living that millionaire lifestyle.
I imagine most players don’t suddenly find a need to spend more time with their families, it’s just that the seesaw finally tilts to the other side. Once they’re not earning as much and/or they’ve earned generational wealth, it may not longer be worth the cost of staying in baseball shape and spending 7+ months largely on the road.
It’s why Buster Posey retired despite the excellent comeback 2021 season. Any additional salary would be a drop in the bucket, and with all the championships and accolades he felt it was no longer worth missing out on being with his young children. He didn’t suddenly feel the need to spend time at home, it was always there.
If only Tom Brady had seen it that way last year. He’s filthy rich but lost his wife and valuable time with his kids.
A true Montreal Expos Legend
Why are commenters on here so wrapped up in how much money these guys make in their career? Acting like they are all proud of the retiring player? I’ll bet you don’t care one bit how much your neighbors make or if they can retire for good at age 35.
True, but I also don’t watch my neighbor play professional sports on TV. Maybe if I watched my neighbor work their accounting job dozens of times a year for over a decade, I’d be invested in stuff like that. Not trying to sound snarky or anything, just trying to convey that we become invested in these players after watching them for so many years.
A player’s career earnings can also be of interest for people who are fascinated by baseball’s financial side of things — how payrolls/salaries are structured and seeing the sum of all those arbitration and free agent salaries is interesting.
And finally, there’s good old fashioned “if I won the lottery” imagination at play. Whether it’s to fuel a sentiment of “these damn players make too much money” or more innocent “what kind of lifestyle could all that money afford” it’s natural to be curious about all the millions raked in by a retiring player.
Great reliever..he was consistent for quite a while. Happy Trails
Always a good idea to “spend more time with the wife” before someone else does.
Sir, while your haircut was suspect, I thoroughly enjoyed watching you picth with Dodgers. As I recall, threw only fastballs. Not sure how hard, but gotta be impressed knowing the hitter knew what was coming.. every.. pitch. No trash cans. My best vs yours
So consistent with 96 at the waist yet very few could catch up to it.
Indeed the 30s Berlin cut was suspect. You can be retired anonymous with a new do.
Wilmer the Thrillmer
Loved him as a Giant and that 98mph high cheese.
I once knew a Jake McGee, different guy though. This Jake McGee was a motivational speaker and he lived in a van down by the river.
With this news do you think Franco will come close to the realization that teams win based on how good their pitching is and not their hitting? He doesn’t seem to understand that, among many other things.
Once, twice, thrice times a lady.
Nearly fifty million earned and a ring. A career he can proudly talk about with his grandchildren.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
Nothing, and that’s all that Jake left me, yeah
And feeling good was easy Lord, when he threw the ball
Hey, feeling good was good enough for me, hmm hmm
Good enough for me and my Jake-y McGee”
I mostly remember him as the least bad of the 3 horrible bullpen contracts the Rockies gave out one year. But if I didn’t let myself think about the salary I appreciated the way he competed and enjoyed watching him throw that fastball.
Nice career and best wishes in retirement.
Loved watching Jake pitch! It’s crazy how he was mostly a one pitch guy and was able to keep guys missing as much as he was. He was making people look foolish with 94 and we all knew what was coming.
Enjoy retirement Jake. Best of luck in your next endeavor.
Is strikeout percentage the single most important stat in baseball today?
NO MLBTR story about a pitcher can be posted without multiple references to it.
We get it. Everybody strikes out people a good portion of the time. What difference does it make? 31.3% or 29.4%? So what?
Solid career, nice that he was able to get a world series ring. More than most players. Enjoy your retirement and time with your family Jake!