The 33-year-old right-hander was signed after being picked in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. But little over a year later, he was sent to the Marlins with Nathan Eovaldi, in exchange for Hanley Ramírez and former Diamondback Randy Choate. He reached the majors in 2015, but was unimpressive, allowing twelve hits and four walks across 6.2 innings, with a 9.45 ERA. He then bounced around in the Orioles and Rockies organization, without making it back to the majors for either franchise. But in December 2018, he signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and has been a steady part of their bullpen ever since, appearing in at least 50 games, each of the past four seasons.
He has been the team’s chief closer for the past two years, and has been effective in that role, notching 31 and 38 saves respectively, with ERAs of 2.52 and 2.35. This year, he had a career best K:BB ratio of 59:13, across 53.2 innings of work. He also pitched for Team USA in the 2021 Olympics, winning a silver medal. McGough didn’t have to travel too far, since the games were held in Japan. Naturally, this brings to mind Yoshihisa Hirano, who was also a former closer in NPB. He had a not too dissimilar ERA of 2.67 in his final year there, before coming to America. The D-backs got the best of Hirano (he’s now back in Japan), who had a 3.69 ERA across three seasons in Arizona and Seattle.
For obvious reasons, there’s not much data or information about McGough over the past few seasons, but there is this interesting Tweet:
solid career in Japan as a late inning bullpen guy. in 2022, he averaged right at 94 mph with his FB, which has good carry and should be effective high in the zone. Utilized splitter more in '22, to a 30.3% usage. Don't think he's at Robert Suarez level, but should be decent. https://t.co/aXRutOCDid— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) December 15, 2022
Mike Hazen spoke to the media just now, and said he found McGough “intriguing,” liking in particular his ability to throw strikes. He also discussed the uncertainty inevitably involved with players moving from leagues in Japan or Korea, but it’s the same data that they use in assessing any prospect or free-agent. They feel McGough developed since going over there, in particular adding the splitter mentioned in the Tweet above. The team watched McGough live “quite a bit on 2021” as well as this year - perhaps six or seven times in all - plus additional video work. They have good pitch-tracking data too, and Hazen feels he adds power plus swing and miss. [New minor-league signing Ryan Hendrix is similar]
With regard to McGough’s role, Hazen feels it’s still likely there will be a competition in spring training for the closer’s job. While Torey likes to have “a closer”, the team are a little more flexible so we’ll likely get to spring and look at the candidates there. They would ideally like to have a variety of different “looks” in the bullpen, but understand that plans are subject to change as the season progresses. With regard to other trades, Hazen says the offers and interests has become a lot more targeted and focused since the winter meetings, mostly on Arizona’s young outfielders. But the D-backs are also not done looking for potential bullpen help yet...