After acquiring Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres for a slumping utility man and a fringe prospect, Brian Cashman has to be pretty happy with the results. Headley has brought a league average bat and strong defense to a position the Yankees have been trying to fill for two years. He has quickly won over fans as well with a walk-off hit in his very first appearance with the team, and a game-tying home run later on. Discounting what he did in 2014 before being traded, Headley has been an above average hitter for the bulk of his career, with decent defensive abilities. At 30 years old, Headley still has several more potentially good seasons ahead of him, and the Yankees should seek to lock him up come the end of the season.
The forthcoming issue with this is the pending return of Alex Rodriguez in 2015. After sitting out the entirety of the 2014 season, Rodriguez will be eligible for reinstatement and should be back in a Yankee uniform. However, like Derek Jeter this year, Rodriguez will be entering the season at 40 years old, coming off of a year out of Major League Baseball. He will be best suited stepping away from full time third base duties and becoming the primary designated hitter, unless Joe Girardi is stricken by true insanity and wants to give Rodriguez playing time at shortstop for the purpose of nostalgia.
That would leave third base as a position of need, like it was entering this season, and Headley has been as ideal a solution as any. Should Rodriguez be fit enough to warrant playing third, Headley has played extensively in left field in the past, though not since 2009. Headley has also played a handful of innings at first base. A designated hitter rotation between Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez could create the need for Headley to split time between third and first. In any situation imaginable, Headley is a piece that fits the Yankees’ needs.
If there then exists a mutual desire for Headley to remain in New York, the discussion turns over to the market price. Entering free agency for the first time in his career, Headley will probably be hunting a long term deal worth close to what he was paid this year at a minimum, which will end up being a bit over $10 million. The one year qualifying offer is no longer available for the Yankees to give Headley due to rules enacted prior to last year. Players traded during the season are no longer allowed to be given the qualifying offer, and therefore do not have draft pick compensation attached to them.
Without draft pick compensation, Headley’s value on the open market is a bit better than it would have been otherwise, although the qualifying offer would have been a one year salary far beyond anything he could hope to be paid next year. If Headley continues to prove that his park was what has held him back, he should be able to net himself something in the range of three years and $30 million.
At that cost, or even marginally higher, he could be a great deal for the Yankees. Their infield is a mess, and the outlook is not any better next season with a Hall of Fame sized hole opening up at shortstop. It is imperative that even before they go out recruiting new talent, the Yankees retain everyone of value on their own roster. Headley should be a valuable piece the rest of this season and going forward.
Commentary by Brian Moore