Headley never has and never will light up the exit velocity leaderboards like teammate Aaron Judge, but at least he hasn't exhibited a drop in hard contact during his slump. His plate discipline has been worrisome, but I'd be even more concerned if it was in tow with poor contact. If Headley can get back to his career norms with walks and strikeouts, he should be able to get back to the level of play we've grown accustomed to. No, he won't surge back to the level he was at to start the year, but he's been roughly a league average hitter for much of his career. That seems like a reasonable expectation.
Since his acquisition, Headley's been an easy scapegoat when the offense struggles. He doesn't have a gorgeous swing, so when things are going badly, it looks particularly ugly for him. That said, he's been a bastion of consistency at the plate in the prior two seasons. He posted a 92 wRC+ in both 2015 and 2016, his first two full seasons in the Bronx. Right now, Headley is down to an 89 wRC+ on the season (though admittedly, it feels so much lower). As hinted at before, in no way do I think Headley is done. After all, he turned it around last year after his hideous start and was a solid contributor. I don't see why he can't be a near league average bat the rest of the season. ZiPS (89 wRC+ RoS) and Steamer (95 wRC+ RoS) seem to concur with my sentiment. Then again, there's a potential upgrade approximately 125 miles west: Gleyber Torres.
Torres, 20, tore up Double-A before his recent bump to Triple-A. He's undoubtedly the future centerpiece of the Yankees infield, whether it's at second, third, or shortstop. Given Headley's struggles, his lack of long-term future with the club, and Torres starting to force the issue, it appears that third base is the most likely spot at the moment.
As Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues noted yesterday, the Yankees have proven that they aren't afraid to bench or trade highly paid players when a prospect deserves a chance. Axisa specifically pointed out two examples from last summer: Gary Sanchez stealing time from Brian McCann and Tyler Austin bumping Mark Teixeira. In the offseason, McCann was traded with two years remaining on his contract (the Yankees are on the hook for a good chunk of that) and Teixeira retired. Perhaps McCann is the model to follow this year with Headley? It would make a lot of sense, provided that Headley doesn't snap out of his slump and Torres continues his hot hitting in the International League. Heck, even if Headley gets his ducks in a row, Torres might be too good to ignore. It's not like McCann was a drag on the Yankees last year when he was eschewed.
The question is: when is the appropriate time to replace Headley with Torres? That leads to a handful of other questions for the front office to answer: Does Torres, the team's top prospect, need a month or two in Triple-A, or just a few weeks? How much patience should the organization have with Headley? Would there be any trade interest in Headley? As long as Torres plays well in the minors and Headley falters, the pressure will mount to make a change. It's far more likely than not that Headley is still a solid-average big league player, but there's a decent chance that Torres is already better than that (and is projected to be a future star). If that's the case, it's difficult to argue against giving Torres a chance.