A few random thoughts on this morning after the Chase Headley signing…
• Four years and $52 million is too much for Headley, but that’s what happens in free agency. The Yankees needed an infielder, and this is where the market set Headley’s value (actually, remarkably, his value seems to have been set a little higher than what the Yankees are paying). Headley’s a strong defensive player who’s generally stayed in the lineup despite his back issues. He’s a nice hitter, but certainly not a great hitter, and he’s never hit for much power outside of that standout 2012 season. For the money, I’m not entirely sure the Yankees are better off having Headley instead Jed Lowrie, but I do think this is the kind of overpay the Yankees are willing to make. They committed to Headley without committing to someone beyond his mid-30s.
• Yes, the Headley signing blocks Rob Refsnyder’s most obvious path to the big leagues, but does anyone really expect the Yankees lineup to stay fully healthy all of next year? Refsnyder turns 24 in March, he’s been playing second base for just two years, and he has just 77 games of Triple-A experience. He’s not even on the 40-man yet. Going back to the minor leagues out of spring training shouldn’t hurt his development, and it wouldn’t shut the door to the possibility of having him in a regular big league role by the end of the season. The Yankees absolutely had to get some additional infield depth of some sort. They essentially got the best infield depth possible on the market. Now, the key is, if something happens in the infield, they have to be willing to give Refsnyder his shot.
• During interviews yesterday, Headley made it clear that he turned down larger contracts to sign with the Yankees. I regularly get emails saying no free agents are going to want to sign with the Yankees because the Yankees are no longer a winning team. I understand the frustration that leads to such a belief — and I don’t remotely believe the Yankees are currently a favorite to compete for a championship in 2015 — but I don’t believe players look at the Yankees as a losing organization right now. Certainly not over the course of a multi-year deal. Time will tell whether those players are right or wrong.
• One thing I like about Headley: He’s a good fit for this atmosphere. He seems to handle pressure, he’s good with the media, and he seems confident enough to slide into a secondary role without feeling as if he’s been slighted. “I didn’t know how I’d like playing in New York just with all the other things that come with playing in New York,” Headley said yesterday. “But once you get here and you realize how well you’re treated, how much the fans care, how much the city cares, how well the Yankees family take care of you and your family, it was pretty obvious after a week or so that I was extremely lucky to get a chance to play in the pinstripes. So, I was surprised, but it didn’t take long to see why other players had spoke so highly of the organization.”
• With Headley, Didi Gregorius, Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, the Yankees have at least five players who have a chance to be above-average defenders next season. I think Brian McCann could be as well if you factor in his pitch framing and the way he works with the pitching staff. Martin Prado at second should be just fine as well. If nothing else, the Yankees have made themselves a better defensive team.
• You know what the Yankees need to go with that defense? An actual pitching staff. That has to be the final piece of the puzzle. The Yankees really have no more glaring needs in their lineup. They could even consider their bench to be complete with John Ryan Murphy, Chris Young, Brendan Ryan and Jose Pirela. But the pitching still needs work. The rotation in particularly has taken a hit with the loss of Shane Greene. Most of the pitchers who seemed to fit the Yankees desire for rotation depth have already come off the board. I do wonder if Hiroki Kuroda could jump back into the picture at some point.
• Speaking of pitching: I still believe the Yankees when they say they’re not planning to get into the Max Scherzer bidding, but if they go another three or four weeks without signing a starting pitcher who they actually like, and Scherzer still out there as a big splash who fills a clear need, I do wonder if they could talk themselves into taking the risk — yet again — on a long-term commitment that carries obvious risk down the road. Not saying it will happen, only that I could imagine a scenario in which the Yankees ultimately bit the bullet and jump into the Scherzer sweepstakes.
• Interesting that the Yankees gave Headley pretty close to the same contract they weren’t willing to give either Dave Robertson or Brandon McCarthy. Of those three, I’d say McCarthy was the best fit — the Yankees have reached a point where they most desperately need a starting pitcher — but he was also the most obvious overpay (incredibly risky to give a guy with his injury history a four-year deal). I think Robertson would been a better investment on a four-year deal, but relievers tend to come and go, and before this offseason I’m not sure I would have been on board with such an investment into a bullpen arm, even one as good as Robertson. Free agency is all about picking battles, and when it came to spending roughly $50 million across the next four years, the Yankees prioritized Headley ahead of the two familiar and desirable pitchers.
• The top third basemen in the minor league system are Miguel Andujar, Eric Jagielo and Dante Bichette Jr. Andujar is still a teenager and won’t necessarily be blocked by the Headley contract, Bichette hasn’t shown enough consistency for the Yankees to really bank on him, and there are enough questions about Jagielo’s defense and strikeouts that the Yankees couldn’t let his presence standing in the way of a deal. That’s not at all to say Jagielo (or anyone else) won’t develop into a legitimate big league third baseman, but I don’t think the Yankees could say with confidence their farm system will be ready to fill the third base hole within the next four years.
Associated Press photos