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Chase Headley Rumors
On the first episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, Jeff Todd runs down the week’s transactional news (1:24) before bringing on MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes and Steve Adams to talk Chase Headley (2:45), Brandon McCarthy (11:58), and David Robertson (20:07). Jeff then provides his thoughts on a pair of corner outfielder contracts that have widely different public perceptions (39:34).
Going forward, the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will run weekly on Thursday evenings.
One of the game’s best defensive third basemen reaches free agency this winter in Chase Headley. Headley’s MVP-caliber 2012 season saw his offense reach lofty heights, but two years later that’s looking like an anomaly.
Headley’s only Gold Glove award came in that magical 2012 season, but he’s got a good chance at another one this year. By measure of Ultimate Zone Rating, Headley was the best defensive third baseman in baseball in 2014. If you prefer Defensive Runs Saved, Headley ranked third. He was a top ten defender in 2012 and ’13 as well, so it’s not just a one-year fluke.
Headley’s defense is a major contributor to his value, leading to roughly four wins above replacement in each of the last two seasons. His WAR ranks tenth among all third basemen for 2013-14, easily ahead of this offseason’s likely top-paid third baseman, Pablo Sandoval. At worst, Headley is Sandoval’s equal, but defense hasn’t caught up with offense in terms of free agent spending.
Headley hit .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs for the Padres in 2012, despite playing half his games in San Diego. 19 of those home runs came in the season’s final two months. He hit .269/.343/.392 prior to that season and .246/.338/.387 since, and it’s not hard to see that one of these is not like the others. However, the switch-hitting Headley remains capable of a solid on-base percentage, posting a .371 OBP and walk rate near 13% in his 224 plate appearances for the Yankees this year. He is, on the whole, still an above average hitter.
Having been traded midseason, Headley is not eligible for a qualifying offer. Fellow free agents Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will certainly require draft pick forfeiture, and perhaps Aramis Ramirez too, but Headley is free of that limitation.
Prior to being traded to the Yankees, Headley hit an abysmal .229/.296/.355 for the Padres in 307 plate appearances. His Padres’ walk rate of 7.2% was well below his career norm.
Upon the trade, Tony Blengino of FanGraphs examined Headley’s batted ball profile, and it wasn’t promising. Headley was in “steady offensive decline,” wrote Blengino, who explained, “his decline in batted-ball production has been solely attributable to diminished fly ball authority.” Did Headley’s 224 plate appearances after the trade represent a reliable return to form? That will be a crucial question for offseason suitors.
Headley’s recent injury history may be perceived as a negative, though it could also be considered an explanation for his offensive struggles in the first half of the season. He received an epidural in June and avoided going on the DL for his back. After the epidural, Headley hit .273/.359/.400 in 312 plate appearances.
Headley was born in Colorado and resides in Tennessee with his family. The Headleys recently welcomed a new baby into the world, their second child. According to the Padres’ 2014 media guide, Headley played varsity baseball and basketball all four years in high school in Colorado, and was also valedictorian. He began college at University of the Pacific in California and later transferred to the University of Tennessee, where his older brother was attending.
According to a profile by MLB.com’s Corey Brock in January 2013, Headley owns a large farm in Western Kentucky and has a passion for bow hunting. A religious man since his freshman year in high school, Headley told Mark E. Darnall and Bruce A. Darnall in 2012, “My goal is to have Jesus be the center of everything.”
Any team without an established, reliable third baseman could consider Headley this offseason. Given the uncertainty that comes with Alex Rodriguez, a return to the Yankees is possible. The Red Sox, Astros, Royals, Brewers, Giants, Blue Jays, and Nationals could also seek help at third base, though some of those clubs might only want a short-term solution.
Headley’s competition on the free agent market will include Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez, and Hanley Ramirez. Whether Aramis Ramirez hits the open market could be a big factor for Headley, as well as whether Hanley Ramirez signs as a third baseman. The trade market could feature Luis Valbuena, Trevor Plouffe, and Pedro Alvarez.
Headley has never had a multiyear deal in his career, and I think he’ll value long-term security this offseason. The question is whether he signs a three or four-year deal. A few potential comparables to consider are Shane Victorino‘s three-year, $39MM deal from two years ago and Jhonny Peralta‘s four-year, $53MM deal from last offseason. I think Headley will sign a four-year, $48MM deal.
26-year-old Kenta Maeda of Japan’s Hiroshima Carp is expected to become available through the posting system, making him an intriguing potential addition to the upcoming free agent market. Ben Badler of Baseball America has a report on Maeda’s last outing in the Nippon League, writing that he “flash[ed] three average or better pitches with good fastball command.” Though slight in build, Maeda steadily worked in the 90-94 mph range. Ultimately, Badler indicates that, while the righty is not viewed as a top-of-the-rotation arm at the MLB level, he should draw plenty of interest if he is made available.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- The Yankees may be interested in re-signing mid-season acquisition Chase Headley, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A move to bring back the third baseman would appear to be a strong indication that Alex Rodriguez is not expected to be an option there, Heyman explains.
- The Tigers thought they were going to acquire then-Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller at the trade deadline after meeting Boston’s asking price, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the Sox gave the Orioles one last chance, resulting in Eduardo Rodriguez heading north to a division rival. As Sherman notes, the eleven outs that Miller recorded in the ALDS for the O’s, rather than the Tigers, had an undeniable impact on Baltimore’s three-game sweep.
- Looking ahead to Miller’s free agency, one executive tells Sherman that three years and $21MM is probably just the starting point for the southpaw’s market. The ability to deploy Miller in the way that the Yankees used Dellin Betances in his breakout year — often throwing multiple innings in winnable games — greatly increases his value, says Sherman.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “there’s nothing that’s really off the table” for the team as it enters the offseason, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Though he said he does not believe “this organization needs a philosophical overhaul as far as how we evaluate players,” Amaro said the team needs to get younger and more athletic while “looking for more long-term solutions” in the player market. Ultimately, the organization could put added emphasis on “speed and contact” given the lack of power bats available.
In two years, Chase Headley has gone from an MVP candidate to an afterthought, regressing from .286/.376/.498 in 2012 to .250/.347/.400 in 2013 to .238/.315/.363 this season. In July, Headley finally left San Diego behind, heading to the Yankees for infielder Yangervis Solarte and pitching prospect Rafael De Paula. Solarte is a solid, cost-controlled player, and De Paula a reasonable pitching prospect, but the return the Padres got when they traded Headley shows that his value isn’t nearly what it once was — the Yankees had signed Solarte to a minor league deal just months earlier.
Still, Headley is an important free agent, and he and his representation at Excel Sports Management might be able to negotiate a surprisingly good contract, given a number of factors that will be in their favor this offseason. Even when Headley struggles to hit, he provides good value thanks to his glove at third base, which routinely ranks among the best at his position. UZR rates Headley as about 43 runs above average at third over his career, including 16.2 runs above average this year. Due to his defensive chops and the tough offensive environment in San Diego, Headley has always posted strong fWAR numbers, rating as 3.5 wins above replacement in 2013 and 3.2 this season. His 2014 fWAR puts him in the same neighborhood as players like Evan Longoria, Edwin Encarnacion and Nelson Cruz, even in a season in which Headley is perceived as being a disappointment.
On top of that, Headley, like many other free agents, will have the benefit of a weak free agent hitting class. Headley, Pablo Sandoval and possibly Aramis Ramirez (who has a mutual option) will top a fairly good group of third basemen, with the possibility that Hanley Ramirez could market himself as a third baseman as well. Elsewhere, Cruz, Russell Martin and Melky Cabrera headline a class of hitters so weak that the Red Sox, for example, already appear to have tried to remake their 2015 offense by doing their shopping during the season (acquiring Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig) rather than waiting until it’s over. Any team trying to improve its collection of position players will have a rough time this offseason.
That Headley did not sign a pre-free agency extension with the Padres could also work in his favor. Early-career extensions have enabled many ballplayers to mitigate risk and make millions early in their careers, but Headley and the Padres never agreed on one, perhaps in part because he was already into his arbitration seasons by the time he broke out in 2012. As a result, he’ll hit free agency as a 30-year-old. With free agents getting older and older, a young-ish free agent like Headley should be able to do relatively well. That’s not to say he’s low-risk — Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann were around the age Headley is now when they signed free agent contracts last offseason, and one year in, neither of those deals look good. But all things considered, it’s better to sign a 30-year-old than a 34-year-old.
Both Ramirezes — Aramis and Hanley — have had trouble staying healthy, and Aramis’ advanced age suggests that’s not likely to change. Sandoval has been more durable, but given his physique, that might not continue. Headley, meanwhile, has had his own health issues, with a broken thumb, calf strain and a herniated disc in his back included in his list of medical troubles the past couple years. He’s generally been able to stay on the field and provide value despite them, however.
Headley will also have an edge on his third base free agent competition in that the Yankees will not be able to extend a qualifying offer, since they traded for him this season. Sandoval and both Ramirezes will be eligible for qualifying offers (depending on the results of Aramis’ mutual option), and the markets for any of those players would be diminished somewhat if they declined them. Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez are somewhere near that awkward point where they’re clearly worth qualifying offers but not worth so much that qualifying offers won’t harm their value. For a Robinson Cano-type player, the qualifying offer is little more than a blip on the radar, but there isn’t anyone in this winter’s entire class of free agent hitters for whom that’s the case.
Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez are too good for the qualifying offer purgatory Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew endured last year, but there will likely be teams for whom Headley’s lack of qualifying offer issues will make him a strong alternative. And, of course, there’s no guarantee that Sandoval will be on the market at all — the Giants signed Hunter Pence to an extension near the end of last season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could do the same with Sandoval.
Headley’s combination of defensive skill and relative youth, perhaps along with the perception that he still has offensive upside (his .286/.376/.498 2012 season in PETCO Park is too recent to be dismissed completely), make him a good bet to receive a contract of two or perhaps three years. It’s also not impossible that he could opt for a one-year deal, hoping to produce at 2012 levels next season before hitting the free agent market again. If the Giants and Brewers fail to retain their current third basemen, Headley could be a possibility for either team. The Tigers or Astros could also make sense.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner received awful news after experiencing discomfort in his third rehab outing last week. Via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link), Hefner has a fracture in his elbow and will have to undergo his second Tommy John operation of the past year. The 28-year-old has spent the past year recovering from TJ and will now likely miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign as well. MLBTR wishes Hefner the best of luck and a full recovery in the next round of rehab.
Here are some more links from baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles aren’t interested in bringing back longtime second baseman Brian Roberts, who was recently released by the Yankees (Twitter link).
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post examines the Yankees‘ midseason rentals — Stephen Drew, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy — and wonders if any of the three will be back with the team in 2015 (and beyond). As Sherman notes, the final months of the season will serve as an audition for each player, and each could have a logical spot on the roster. Drew could replace the retiring Derek Jeter, Headley could handle third base when Alex Rodriguez DHs, and McCarthy can serve as valuable rotation depth given the uncertainty surrounding New York’s internal options.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he’s looking for rotation depth following the trade of Roberto Hernandez and the injury to Cliff Lee. That desire led to the claim of Jerome Williams, but it sounds as if the Phils could be on the lookout for other cheap additions that could help them beyond the 2014 season. Salisbury notes that 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola is not under consideration for a jump to the Majors.
- Within that same piece, Salisbury also speculates that the Tigers and Phillies could reboot their previous trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon due to Joe Nathan‘s recent struggles and Joakim Soria‘s injury (he is on the DL with an oblique strain). Amaro tells Salisbury that the two sides haven’t talked trade recently, but he does acknowledge that he spoke with the Tigers “particularly about the bullpen.” Antonio Bastardo was thought to be a Tigers target at one point, but as Salisbury notes, Bastardo was placed on waivers earlier this month. While no reports surfaced of him being claimed, it’s highly unlikely that he would clear, given that he had a mere $600K or so of his 2014 salary remaining at the time he was placed on waivers.
- One more note from Salisbury, as he reports that Amaro said it’s “possible” that top prospect Maikel Franco will receive a September call-up. An earlier promotion is unlikely for Franco, per Amaro, but there’s little doubt that he’s impressed as of late. While Franco struggled with the jump to Triple-A to open the season, he’s mashed since July 1, hitting .338/.360/.564 in 139 plate appearances.
After going into the All-Star break on a 2-8 slide, the Blue Jays have righted the ship by winning seven of 10 games since the Midsummer Classic. This hot streak has gotten the Jays back into the postseason picture, as they currently hold a one-game lead over the Yankees for the second AL wild card slot. Here’s the latest hot stove buzz out of Toronto…
- The Phillies specifically scouted a recent rehab start by Jays southpaw prospect Sean Nolin, Rogers Sportnet’s Shi Davidi reports. Nolin was rated as the 97th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season, and he owns a 3.12 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 1.62 K/BB rate over 13 Triple-A starts.
- Also from Davidi’s piece, the Rangers are one of a few clubs who have been sending more scouts to watch the Jays’ short-season Class A team in Vancouver. Righty Miguel Castro, left-hander Jairo Labourt and shortstop Franklin Barreto appear to be drawing the bulk of the scouts’ interest.
- Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is “an option” for the Jays, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Cabrera would presumably be a candidate at second base for Toronto since Jose Reyes is locked into the shortstop job; Cabrera saw lots of action at the keystone over the first three years of his career but hasn’t seen any action at 2B since 2009. He is a free agent this winter and is thought to be an expendable piece for the Tribe since top prospect Francisco Lindor is on the way.
- The Padres were willing to pay all of the $4MM that was owed to Chase Headley for the rest of the 2014 season as part of a proposed deal that would’ve sent the third baseman to Toronto, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. An executive familiar with the negotiations between the Padres and Jays tells Elliott that San Diego was asking for Juan Francisco and two “not big-time prospects” in return. Francisco (.242/.313/.529 with 16 homers in 249 PA) is having a much better season than Headley (.238/.300/.371 with eight homers in 330 PA) and comes with three years of control while Headley is a free agent after this season, though Headley has obviously been the more high-profile player in recent years. San Diego ended up dealing Headley to the Yankees for Yangervis Solarte, Rafael De Paula and all but $1MM of Headley’s remaining salary.
- The Blue Jays were one of 28 teams at the Rusney Castillo showcase on Saturday, Shi Davidi tweets, with the Jays sending “multiple people” to check out the Cuban outfielder.
We just took a look at the Marlins; now here are some notes on the rest of the NL East and their geographical counterparts from the American League:
- The Nationals rank as perhaps the league’s quietest contender approaching the trade deadline, in large part because it is difficult to see where the club might reasonably look to upgrade. We’ve heard previously that the team might target a young shortstop to plug into its pipeline, but one possibility for the MLB roster is a bullpen addition, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. While the Washington relief corps has been outstanding, and the club lacks apparent roster flexibility, Kilgore says that the Nats are interested in adding depth for the stretch run.
- This is my speculation, but if a new arm is added to the big league club, Washington could potentially stash rookie Aaron Barrett in the minors until rosters expand in September, though he has been quite solid (2.61 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 31 innings). More intriguingly, a pen slot could theoretically be opened if the team was to deal away former starter Ross Detwiler, though that would obviously result in a corresponding loss of depth.
- There have been several reports on Mets starter Bartolo Colon, who is earning $9MM this year and is promised $11MM for 2015. The club is “trying hard” to deal him, according to Danny Knobler (via Twitter), while Newsday’s Marc Carig tweets that interest is picking up but the Mets are disinclined to hold onto any of Colon’s salary in a deal.
- Moving the 41-year-old won’t be easy, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, because his future salary is both what New York wants to offload and what other clubs will want to avoid. Meanwhile, Sherman refutes reports suggesting that the Giants have engaged the Mets on Colon (Twitter link), writing that San Francisco would only have interest if it can avoid paying for a significant portion of Colon’s 2015 salary. Like Carig, Sherman hears that is not the Mets’ preference.
- The Blue Jays have shown interest in bringing back outfielder Alex Rios, currently with the Rangers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Toronto shed Rios and his big contract by declining to revoke an August waiver claim back in 2009, but the veteran has turned things around and now comes with only a $14MM team option left for 2015. Of course, there remains some doubt as to whether the Jays would be able to take on the remainder of Rios’s $12.5MM salary for the current season.
- Red Sox starter-turned-reliever Felix Doubront is not enjoying his current role with the club and hopes to see more action — in Boston or elsewhere — reports Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The 26-year-old lefty has been mentioned before as a trade candidate, though it is not clear whether Boston will be inclined to move him as the club tries to get back in the mix, especially with talk that Jake Peavy could be dealt. Doubront will be eligible for arbitration for the first time next year.
- The Yankees acquired third baseman Chase Headley with the expectation that he will be a two-month rental, GM Brian Cashman told reporters including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). The deal came together today after about three weeks of discussions, Cashman added.
- Headley will likely not be the last addition for New York, Cashman indicated in further comments, via Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. “I have more work to do,” he said. The GM explained that larger moves could be in the offing: “We’ve got high-end stuff, without a doubt, players that other teams like. And those players would be available, or will be available, in the right circumstances. These are the deals that I can present to you that we were able to conclude, but we’re talking much larger type deals, [and] clearly much smaller, incremental upgrades.”
The Yankees announced that they have officially acquired Chase Headley from the Padres. The Yankees will send Yangervis Solarte and minor league right-hander Rafael De Paula to the Padres in return for Headley and $1MM.
Headley, a lifetime member of the Padres, is hitting just .229/.296/.355 with seven homers this season, though he’s playing outstanding defense at third base, per both UZR/150 (+19.7) and Defensive Runs Saved (+7). Headley is earning $10.535MM in 2014, of which $3.97MM remains. He is eligible for free agency following the season.
The Yankees are just four games out of the division lead in the AL East and two and a half games back of a Wild Card berth, meaning every additional win the team picks up could be crucial. Yankees third basemen are hitting .245/.323/.391 on the season with 14 home runs (which translates to a nearly league-average 98 wRC+). However, much of that is due to what looks to have been an unsustainable hot streak for Solarte early in the season. The 27-year-old Solarte had a scorching hot month of April (fueled by a .349 BABIP), but he’s batted just .233/.307/.347 in 200 plate appearances since that time. If nothing else, Headley’s glove may provide an extra win over the rest of the season, but the hope is undoubtedly that a move from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium will rejuvenate his bat as well.
It’s not long ago that Headley looked to be a breakout star. He batted a whopping .286/.376/.498 with 31 homers to go along with elite defense and solid baserunning in 2012, but since that time he’s been slowed by a fractured thumb, a calf strain and a herniated disc in his back (for which he received an epidural injection earlier this month). He’s hitting .323 with a homer, a triple and four doubles this month, so perhaps the injection helped to ease some of the pain he was experiencing. However, he’s yet to walk in July and has struck out 16 times, so his approach at the plate certainly doesn’t appear to be what it was in 2012 when he posted a career-best 12.3 percent walk rate.
From a big picture standpoint, the move signifies that the Yankees, in typical fashion, will maintain a dogged pursuit of the postseason. Despite losing CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and potentially Masahiro Tanaka for the season (with Michael Pineda missing the majority of the year as well), the Yankees feel they have a shot to contend in an abnormally weak AL East. The team has already acquired Brandon McCarthy (in exchange for lefty Vidal Nuno), and it seems likely that GM Brian Cashman will continue to be aggressive as he looks to upgrade his roster.
For the Padres, it’s tough to describe the outcome as anything but disappointing. Headley looked to be on the verge of stardom following the 2012 season, and they could likely have netted a king’s ransom had they moved him then. Even this offseason, Headley’s value coming off a .250/.347/.400 season with excellent defense would have been fairly strong. Now, they’ll receive a player whom the Yankees signed to a minor league deal this offseason (Solarte) and a pitcher that ranked 15th in a weak Yankees farm system coming into the year (per Baseball America). At this point, however, it has to be considered a silver lining for the Friars that they weren’t able to extend Headley — either with the reported franchise-record deal they were weighing last spring or the three-year, $33-39MM deal they offered over the winter.
Solarte is hitting .254/.337/.381 with the Yankees this season, though much of that production came in the aforementioned April hot streak. The Padres can control him for six years, as he made his big league debut this year, and he’s appeared at second base, third base and shortstop this season. Ideally, he could settle into a utility role for San Diego for the next several seasons.
De Paula, 23, has a 4.15 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 89 innings (17 starts, three relief appearances) at Class-A Advanced Tampa this season. Baseball America noted in its scouting report that De Paula’s mid- to upper-90s fastball was enough to dominate hitters in Low Class A, but he struggled with last year’s debut in High-A Tampa due to an inability to throw his breaking pitches for strikes. He’s made some strides in his command this year, averaging fewer walks. BA noted that if he could learn to command either his slider or changeup, that would be enough to pair with his plus fastball to project as a big league reliever, but if he could learn to command both, he could start in the bigs.
De Paula doesn’t come without personal baggage, as BA’s Ben Badler notes (on Twitter). Badler says De Paula “will be a big leaguer,” but points out that he’s used multiple falsified identities and dates of birth in his road to professional baseball.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
12:05pm: Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears (Twitter link) that one or two minor leaguers will be heading to the Padres, neither of whom are considered “top guys.”
Headley, a lifetime member of the Padres, is hitting just .229/.296/.355 with seven homers this season, though he’s playing outstanding defense at third base, per both UZR/150 (+19.7) and Defensive Runs Saved (+7). Headley is earning $10.53MM in 2014 and is eligible for free agency following the season.
The Padres can control Tyson Ross for another three seasons, but to justify the rising cost, they’ll need more games like the gem he delivered yesterday, writes Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego. Through 21 starts this season, the All-Star owns a 2.70 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Here’s more out of the Western divisions..
- Padres assistant GM A.J. Hinch told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that “Chase Headley is free agent at the end of the year, so we are acting accordingly.” Hinch also indicated that several teams are interested in the third baseman.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter) that he started working on the Huston Street deal right after the June draft about six weeks ago.
- Dipoto went on to add that the Angels are not likely to do any more deals this month unless there is an injury to a starter (link). However, the Halos will remain in “feeler mode” just in case.
- The Astros have a major perception problem, writes ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider sub. req’d). Between the Brady Aiken situation, their handling of George Springer, and the widespread belief that they tanked the 2013 season, many are questioning Houston’s game plan.