By Brad Carroll
The New York Yankees finished off their infield for the 2015 season Monday afternoon, agreeing to a deal with Chase Headley for four years and around $50 million. Headley, who spent less than half a season with the Yankees last year, should be the team's full-time third baseman. That also means Alex Rodriguez will be a designated hitter and Martin Prado will play second base.
While it's not a sexy free agency signing, as the Yankees have bigger needs, namely targeting pitcher Max Scherzer, Headley fills a need at third base. The Yankees could have gone into next season with a platoon of Rodriguez and Prado at third and a rookie at second base, but this move allows everyone to know exactly what their role will be.
There's good and bad to this deal and we analyze it all, including our take on the four-year deal for Headley.
If the Yankees have concerns about what A-Rod can do next season, and you know they do, then this is the perfect choice to make. Headley isn't a great third baseman but he's solid and the Yankees need solid right now. If Headley plays like he did in 2012, when he hit .286 with 31 home runs and 115 RBI, the Yankees automatically get a big-time bargain. That season, Headley finished fifth in the MVP voting, won a gold glove and was the league's silver slugger winner. He led the National League in RBI.
This past season Headley picked up his game after joining the Yankees, batting .262 in 58 games after hitting .229 with the Padres in the first 77 games of the year. He hit six home runs with the Yankees after hitting seven with San Diego in 19 less games. That's a positive as well.
Depending on your view on Rodriguez, Headley's signing also means you won't have to see A-Rod in the field for most of the year. Rodriguez will play every now and again, to spell Headley, but his role will mainly be as a designated hitter.
The potential is there for this Headley deal to be huge steal.
Headley's 2012 season was great, but that was by far the best year of his career. In 2013, Headley hit .250 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in 141 games. In 2014, he combined between San Diego and New York to hit .243 with 13 homers and 49 RBI in 135 games. He hit .262 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 58 games with the Yankees. Those numbers wouldn't warrant a four-year, $52 million contract.
The biggest worry for Yankees fans is if Headley was a one-year flash in the pan and is getting a sweet deal based solely on that aberration. It's certainly possible, as Headley hasn't come anywhere near replicating the 2012 season in any way.
It's the prototypical hit or miss deal. This will either be a giant bargain or a complete bust, with Rodriguez regaining the job after the All-Star break and the Yankees will be stuck with another bad player for another three years.
There's also the fact the Yankees won't get any younger by giving Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela a shot to play second base. The two would-be rookies will get stuck back in the minors. You can't create another Core Four without giving young players a chance to prove themselves in the Bronx, and the Yankees aren't going to do that. Just imagine if the Yankees did trade Mariano Rivera for Felix Fermin back in 1995 because they weren't sure if Derek Jeter was ready to play shortstop for the Yankees. That was an actual trade that was discussed.
If Headley is more the player of the last two years than in 2012 then this deal has the potential to be another albatross hanging on the Yankees payroll.
The Headley deal is nothing to get excited about. Headley wasn't impressive in his 58 games with the Yankees last year. He had his moments, but overall, he wasn't the player that was a star in the 2012 season. Far from it, actually. But in our Pay Him or Slay Him column after the season, we wrote the Yankees should bring Headley back if the money made sense.
PAY CHASE HEADLEY: He's a nice player the Yankees can plug into a couple of holes, especially third if Rodriguez can't play. Of course, Cashman can't hand out a huge contract he's become known for recently. Headley made $10.5 million this season and probably wants a raise, which might just put him out of the Yankees price range. If they can get a team-friendly deal, bring Headley back.
If Headley is making the reported $52 million over four years, he would be pulling in $13 million a season. That's not bank-breaking money. So, while this signing won't get anyone excited, it makes a lot of sense for the Yankees to do.
The next Yankees free agency story we write, however, needs to involve the team signing pitcher Max Scherzer. He's the key to a winning offseason for the Bronx Bombers. But for now, adding Headley and reliever Andrew Miller is a solid start.