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Brewers trade McGehee for surprisingly useful reliever

This probably shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it was, but the Brewers capped off a busy day by trading Casey McGehee to the Pittsburgh Pirates for reliever Jose Veras. With Aramis Ramirez signing with the Brewers earlier in the day and the non-tender deadline at 11 p.m. Central, today seemed like a good bet to be McGehee’s last with the Brewers one way or another.

The Brewers made it sound like they’d be willing to move McGehee across the diamond if they signed Ramirez, but now it’s pretty clear they were just trying to preserve any last shred of trade value he had. McGehee’s bat never would have played well at first, although I don’t doubt he’d be a decent defender there. Getting anything for McGehee is a plus considering his future was in doubt. Getting a useful pitcher in Jose Veras back is actually a pretty big bonus.

Veras was a non-tender candidate himself in Pittsburgh, a year after he was non-tendered by Florida. It’s not that he’s a bad pitcher, but he’s just the type you don’t pay big money for in arbitration. The Bucs scooped him up last season and got a steady season out of him — he struck out 10.01 per 9 innings, posted a 3.80 ERA (3.50 FIP) in 71 innings, and held right-handers to a .220/.298/.302 line. He throws hard (average fastball velocity of 94.4 mph), but without a ton of control — he walked 4.31 per 9 innings last year, but that’s actually an improvement over his career average of 4.80. While the velocity on the fastball is big, his best pitch is actually his curveball — FanGraphs has Veras’ curve at 10.3 runs above average last season. Remember how geeked out everyone was about Shaun Marcum‘s changeup last winter? We should be that excited about Veras’ curve.

If there’s one thing to really worry about Veras, though, it’s his groundball rate (or lack thereof) heading into Miller Park. He had a GB% of just 37.3% last year, and that’s in line with his career 38.2% average. He’s a pretty extreme flyball pitcher who’s gotten a bit lucky when it comes to not giving up home runs. When you think about him moving out of PNC Park (a place that doesn’t surrender many home runs) and into Miller Park (a place that does), it’s not hard to imagine him struggling a bit.

The same probably goes for McGehee, leaving a homer-friendly home park for one that isn’t as forgiving. The Casey McGehee of 2009 and 2010 did do a good job of splitting the gaps and going the other way, though, so if he can at least regain his form there, he could be a useful player for the Pirates. It was tough to watch him struggle through 2011 since he’s such a likeable guy, but the Brewers were able to get a couple of very solid seasons out of him, and he was able to beat the odds and have a couple successful seasons in the big leagues.

Here’s to hoping McGehee finds success again. You just know he’s going to end up with a walkoff hit against the Brewers at some point in 2012 — and it’d be hard to get too upset over it. If you want a Pittsburgh perspective on the move, check out Pat Lackey’s post at WHYGAVS.