Third base has been an absolute hole for the New York Yankees over the last two seasons. Ever since Alex Rodriguez had injury issues last year — and suspension issues this year — they have been unable to replace him.
New York third basemen this season have hit .247/.321/.389 with a 97 wRC+ and a .317 wOBA. Those numbers are even inflated due to Yangervis Solarte‘s hot streak at the beginning of the season. Last year was even worse, as Yankees third basemen hit .221/.290/.330 with a 69 wRC+ and a .279 wOBA.
Finally, it seems like they might have found a real third baseman and not the garbage that has been their the last two seasons. The Yankees bought low on Chase Headley, and so far it has paid huge dividends.
The Padres really did a horrible job in this negotiation. They should have gotten more than a journeyman and a prospect who may only end up being a reliever, even though Headley had been struggling this season. Also, trading him when his value was much higher would have been even smarter, but the Padres are not a good organization for a reason.
The sample size is real small, but Headley has tore it up so far with the Yankees. He is hitting .368/.368/.474/.842 in five games. Also, he has certainly passed the eye test defensively at the hot corner. This backs up his 8.6 UZR and 9.7 defensive runs saved this year, according to Fangraphs.
Headley’s struggles earlier this season probably had a lot to do with a back injury and some bad luck. His 27.1 percent line drive rate is well above his career average, yet his .300 BABIP is his lowest since his rookie season. Headley has been hot over the full month of July (.333/.333/.464) since he received an epidural in his back to relieve the pain.
His 2013 season has been made out to be a lot worse than it really was. Headley still had a 113 wRC+, 115 OPS+ and a 3.6 WAR. Fangraphs estimated his worth for 2013 as being $17.8 million. It was down from his 2012 MVP season — and his power was down to only 13 home runs — but it really was not a bad year at all.
Headley is not only helping the Yankees make a playoff push for this season; he is also auditioning for next year. If he can keep up anything close to his pace so far the Yankees will have to seriously consider signing him as a free agent.
Of course the big elephant in the room in relation to that is Rodriguez. Nobody has a clue what the Yankees’ plans for him really are. Will they give him his third base job back? Will they make him their full time DH? Will they pay him his salary to go away? Your guess is as good as mine.
Headley is the class of a very weak 2015 free agent class at third base along with Pablo Sandoval. Casey McGehee is also available, but this season seems like a fluke for him with a .360 BABIP and only two homers. So, if the Yankees do not get Headley or Sandoval their options are limited to probably giving Rodriguez his job back.
Brian Cashman did an awesome job in turning basically nothing into a player who can help them in their playoff run this season. It could pay off even more if Headley turns into their third baseman over the next few years.