Chase Headley, who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, was re-signed by the Yankees to a four-year, $52 million contract. He is a 30-year-old third baseman who hit .243/.328/.372 last season in 135 games with the San Diego Padres and Yankees, but in 58 games with the Yankees after being traded, he hit a much better .262/.371/.398 with six homers, 17 RBIs and eight doubles.
He played in 77 games with the Padres and 55 with the Yankees and had almost the same amount of homers (7 and 6) and doubles (12 and 8) in 22 fewer games. His average while playing for the Yankees was also much better than when he played in the National League with the Padres. The Yankees had to resign Headley because he proved that he was able to improve his stats while playing under the bright lights and he makes and his return entails that the defense in the infield will be elite at first base, shortstop, third and catcher.
He was productive with the Yankees and liked being in New York City. He makes their defense much better than it would have been without him. Headley also admitted that he took a discount to stay with the Yankees, which proves that he appreciates that the Yankees traded for him last July and desperately wants to play in the playoffs. Stats that prove how important bringing back Headley is for the Yankees are that as a Yankee, he was 7th in OPS, 11 in slugging, 7th in times on base and 5th in OBP among all third baseman. He is an elite defender and is an abover average hitter for a third baseman.
His signing also ensures that Alex Rodriguez will have little value to the Yankees in 2015. If A-Rod is healthy and somewhat productive, he should get at-bats at DH and will possibly be a back-up first baseman. Headley, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs in 2012 when he finished fifth in MVP voting and won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award, has not come close to having a season like that since, but his chances at repeating his success from 2012 are improved this upcoming season based on how he played after the All-Star break and the increased protection that he has in the Yankees lineup.
The Yankees will be dramatically improved defensively as well as to a lesser extent on offense at the second base, shortstop and third base positions in 2015. Martin Prado is now slated to be the everyday second baseman, and he should be much better than Brian Roberts, who was the primary second baseman last season. Didi Gregorius isn’t better than Derek Jeter in his prime, but he has much more range than Jeter had the past few seasons and even had a better OPS than Jeter did last season. Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson played third before Headley’s arrival, and they don’t combine to be nearly the player that Headley is. The infield defense will prevent more runs from scoring than last season, which will be important based on the pitching staff that the team will have.
Another benefit to Headley and the Yankees agreeing on a deal is that Rob Refsnyder will be able to get some more seasoning at AAA-Scranton to improve his defense at second base and then can get called up in June. Refsnyder is an elite second base prospect who hit .297 with 24 homers and 142 RBIs in three minor league seasons, but he really started to make everyone pay attention to him last season when he .318 with 14 homers, 63 RBIs and nine steals while playing 60 games at AA Trenton and 77 games a AAA Scranton. Refsnyder has to improve his defense, and he did last season as he nine errors for Trenton but only three while playing for Scranton.
He played outfield in college, and that versatility will make him valuable at either second or outfield since it is likely that Carlos Beltran will miss some time next season because of injury. The Yankees envision Refsnyder as their second baseman of the future, and with Headley’s return and Prado’s move to second, he will not feel the pressure in spring training of starting the season at second.
Headley can definitely be productive until his contract ends when he is 34. His ability to make the routine and Gold Glove caliber play at third shouldn’t decline and his overall stats could even improve if he doesn’t get injured again. “I enjoyed my time last year in pinstripes probably more than I have ever enjoyed playing the game,” Headley said on Yankees Hot Stove. “I am going to be a great teammate to all of my teammates. Obviously when you lose Derek Jeter there is no replacing him. I think we have a chance to be a really good defensive club and that is getting more and more important in today’s game.”
Headley thinks that coming to New York and having dangerous hitters around him made him a better hitter. He said that a major reason that he signed with the Yankees is that he wants to win and the Yankees offer him a better chance to do so than the Padres ever did. He proved to have a flair for the dramatic as he hit a walk-off hit in extra innings in his very first game as a Yankee. He will try to give fans many more moments like that during the years to come.
The next move that the Yankees need to make is adding a dominant starter. They reportedly don’t want to give Max Scherzer the contract that he wants, but that could change.