Brewers Reportedly Add Veteran Reliever Jake McGee to Bullpen Mix

The Milwaukee Brewers started adding to their squad a couple weeks ahead of this year’s trade deadline, but it wasn’t via an actual trade.

On Thursday, right before the Crew were about to kick off their second “half” of the season, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the team was signing left-handed pitcher Jake McGee. The move has not yet been confirmed by the club.

The 35-year-old McGee was in the second year of a two-year contract that the reliever signed prior to the 2021 season with the San Francisco Giants. But after a rough first half of the season, he was designated for assignment by the team on July 9th before ultimately being released five days later.

If he can unlock his form from the previous two years, Jake McGee could be a sneaky good addition to the Brewers bullpen.

2022 marked the 13th season of McGee’s major league career. The southpaw was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 5th round all the way back in 2004 and ended up making his debut with the team six years later in the 2010 season.

McGee played for the Rays for six seasons and was very solid, going 21-11 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.017 WHIP in almost 300 appearances. His finest season was in 2014 when he pitched in 73 games, had a 1.89 ERA, and also put up 19 saves.

Prior to the 2016 season, the Rays would end up trading McGee to the Colorado Rockies, where he would spend his next four seasons. His results there were more mediocre, with him putting up a 4.78 ERA and a 1.370 WHIP in 225 outings.

A free agent in 2020, McGee would sign a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and once again prove to be an effective reliever. In 24 appearances during the shortened season, he would lower his ERA and WHIP back down to 2.66 and 0.836, respectively.

That would be enough for him to earn his deal with the Giants last season, where he would also end up being their primary closer. That move worked out for the better as the lefty would appear in 62 games, put up a 2.72 ERA and a 0.905 WHIP as well as 31 saves in 36 opportunities.

2022 was not going McGee’s way, though. He had given up 17 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings (7.17 ERA) and was allowing batters to hit a career worst .303 so far in the season. That led to his eventual DFA.

There’s reasons to think McGee can turn things around. His FIP of 4.14 shows that there could be some bad luck in his results (though the same was said about the ill-fated Daniel Norris signing last season). Also, his hard hit rate of 34.2% this season isn’t that far off his career 32.6% mark (per FanGraphs). His pitch velocity hasn’t seemed to drop or anything either.

That said, there are reasons for concern. He’s barely striking anyone out this season, punching out batters at a 11.5% rate as opposed to his career rate of 26.1%. Hitters are also barreling him at more than twice his career average (11.5% in 2022 versus 5.4% for his career stats that have been measured by Baseball Savant since 2015).

Regardless, it’s a low-risk move that’s worth a shot for the Brewers, who could use some bullpen help down the stretch. While the back end is solid with guys like Josh Hader, Devin Williams, Brad Boxberger, and Hoby Milner, the front end could use some help. And veteran experience when trying to make a playoff push is never a bad thing.

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The Brewers will likely make bigger moves as we get closer to the trade deadline, but sometimes you need to start the action with a smaller one.