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.