Chase Headley Rumors

Cashman On Shortstop, Kuroda, Robertson, Headley, Young

Here are some of the hot stove-related highlights from Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s chat with reporters (including ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews and MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom) on Monday…

  • Acquiring a shortstop is atop Cashman’s list, but he says, “I think it’s a limited market to be honest, and I say limited in terms of availability and acquisition cost.”  Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has a source saying that beyond Troy Tulowitzki, the Yankees are “kicking the tires” on the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins.  “I don’t think this past season reflects what his true ability is,” said Cashman of free agent Stephen Drew, and the GM has already spoken with Drew’s agent.  Beyond Drew, Feinsand says the Yanks don’t seem inclined to pay up for Hanley Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie aren’t high on their list.
  • The Yankees have had “a brief conversation” with Chase Headley and “we’re certainly looking forward to continuing the dialogue,” says Cashman.  Given doubts about Alex Rodriguez‘s ability to play third base every day in 2015, the Yankees are making a “strong push” to sign Headley, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Cashman thinks Hiroki Kuroda is going through his standard post-season “mental cleansing process” and will soon make a decision about whether or not he wants to return in 2015.  Cashman would “be surprised if he doesn’t play,” though isn’t sure if Kuroda will pitch in MLB or Japan.
  • Cashman will speak with David Robertson‘s agent during the GM Meetings, and was hesitant to discuss the Yankees’ closer situation until those talks had taken place.  “I would have no clue what [Robertson's] market value is going to be,” Cashman said. “Certainly, they’ll have an idea. They turned down the qualifying offer based on a lot of parameters, I’m sure, [and] some discussions they’ve already had. It’s hard to tell.
  • Two of the club’s statistical analysts pushed Cashman to re-sign Chris Young.  “They felt, from an analytical standpoint, his year wasn’t as bad as it played out, that there was a potential bounce-back situation with it. We signed him up on what we think is a fair-market value, fourth-outfielder type contract,” Cashman said.
  • Young’s signing may be the last outfield-related move the Yankees make this winter.  “I think right now, we’re kind of settled in the outfield unless something surprising happens in the case of a trade, which I wouldn’t anticipate,” Cashman said.  As Bloom notes, this would seem to close the book on any chance of Ichiro Suzuki re-signing with New York.

AL Notes: Abreu: White Sox, Red Sox, Rays

Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) chronicles the travails Jose Abreu underwent in leaving his native Cuba for America. Full details of Abreu’s journey remain a secret (Abreu and his agents have declined to discuss his defection and an interview with Abreu’s mother, to which to she had agreed, was cancelled by one of the slugger’s associates), but Hopkins was able to piece together how Abreu and his brother-in-law took a boat from Cuba to Haiti in August 2013 leaving behind his young son and family, reaching out to the Orioles’ Henry Urrutia for help after leaving Cuba, and living in the Dominican Republic for three months before landing his $68MM contract with the White Sox. The article also delves into the role smugglers and their networks play in ferreting players out of Cuba for promises upward of 30% of the players’ first contract. Abreu is expected to be named the AL Rookie of the Year tomorrow.

In other news about Abreu’s White Sox and the American League:

  • Earlier today, we learned the White Sox will meet this week with Pablo Sandoval‘s representatives during the GM Meetings in Phoenix. However, if the right third base upgrade cannot be found, the White Sox are comfortable with a platoon of Conor Gillaspie and Marcus Semien, reports CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes. The White Sox also have Matt Davidson on their 40-man roster, but Hayes notes the 23-year-old struggled in a homer-friendly park at Triple-A Charlotte (.199/.283/.362 in 539 plate appearances).
  • The free agent expenditures by the Red Sox this offseason could be shaped by who will be available in free agency next winter, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. With a solid free agent class of starting pitchers and a dearth of third baseman next offseason, MacPherson opines the Red Sox may stretch the budget this year for Sandoval, Chase Headley, or Hanley Ramirez.
  • Rays players are rallying around Dave Martinez to replace Joe Maddon as manager, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.
  • Within the same article, Topkin speculates the trade of left-hander Cesar Ramos was the first of what could be several moves by the Rays to create roster spots by dealing players who may be too expensive or no longer fit and receive something in return. Sean Rodriguez (projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $2MM through arbitration) could be one of those moves, according to Topkin.

Yankees Unlikely To Pursue Top Starters, Sandoval

While many have been quick to connect the Yankees to the top names on the market, as is the case in most offseasons, Mark Feinsand and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News hear that the team has no intention to pursue any of the “Big Three” starting pitchers — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — or top third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Instead, the Daily News duo continues, the Yankees are more focused on bringing back a pair of their own free agents: Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy. The team loves Headley’s glove at third base and views the returning Alex Rodriguez as more of a DH candidate at his age, per Feinsand and Madden. The team could act quickly and aggressively to retain the two. (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes pegged Headley for a four-year, $48MM contract while I predicted a three-year, $36MM deal for McCarthy.) The Yankees, per the report, don’t want to add any more $100MM+ contracts to their books, although the name of Hanley Ramirez, who figures to top the century mark, is curiously absent from the list of players they won’t be pursuing.

Also of note for Yankees fans is the update within this piece on David Robertson, whom Feinsand and Madden hear is already receiving interest from at least six clubs. Robertson is expected to turn down the Yankees’ qualifying offer and could land a three- or four-year deal on the open market.

Of course, it’s worth looking back to last season when multiple reports indicated that the Yankees would spend judiciously in an attempt to eventually get the team’s payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. That clearly didn’t happen, as the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to huge multi-year deals while also adding veterans Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan on smaller deals. All told, they spent roughly half a billion dollars last winter.

None of that is meant to discredit the information provided by Feinsand and Madden, but rather to serve as a reminder that priorities can change. Still, for the time being, the Yankees’ early modus operandi appears to be pursuing mid-level free agents in an attempt to return the team to the playoffs after a two-year absence while also maintaining some long-term flexibility.



AL East Notes: Robertson, Headley, Happ, Tomas

In a text message to George A. King III of the New York Post, David Robertson says things are “quiet on the front” in terms of a multiyear contract with the Yankees or receiving a qualifying offer from the team.  The Yankees are expected to extend the QO to Robertson and the closer is very likely to reject it given the interest in his services.  At least six clubs are interested in Robertson this winter, a league source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

Here’s more from around the AL East…

  • The Yankees have begun talks with Chase Headley, CBSSports.com’ Jon Heyman reports.  New York has exclusive negotiating rights with Headley until 11pm CT tonight, though it would be quite surprising to see a deal reached before Headley has had a chance to test the thin free agent market.
  • Blue Jays southpaw J.A. Happ is “generating lots of interest” in trades, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  Happ enjoyed a solid 2014 season and had his $6.7MM option for 2015 exercised by the Jays on Friday.  With the newly-acquired Marco Estrada now in the rotation mix, Happ could be expendable.
  • Earlier today, Sportsnet.ca’s Jeff Blair reported that the Blue Jays have had internal discussions about Russell Martin.  In that same item, Blair notes that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos might look to act quickly this offseason rather than wait for deals to develop.  The latter strategy left the Jays largely empty-handed last winter.  Toronto has already dealt Adam Lind to Milwaukee, a trade that Blair feels doesn’t make much sense for the Jays unless a follow-up move is forthcoming.
  • The Orioles don’t seem to have interest in trading or non-tendering Chris Davis, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski reports, though the first baseman will have much to atone for in Baltimore following his disappointing 2014 season.
  • Though the Orioles currently have six legitimate rotation candidates on the roster, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko expects the club to add pitching depth by signing at least one veteran to a minor league deal.
  • Jay Alou, Yasmany Tomas‘ agent, tweeted that his client worked out at the Red Sox academy in the Dominican Republic over the weekend.  While the Sox have had some interest in Tomas in the past, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford hears that the workout was arranged “partly out of convenience, with Tomas needing a place in the area to continue his preparation.”  It would be a surprise to see Boston sign Tomas given that the Sox already have an outfield surplus.
  • The Red Sox are in need of a top left-hander for the bullpen, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.  Bringing back Andrew Miller would be the best option, though he’ll be heavily courted by several teams and the Sox may not be able to win a bidding war.
  • Silverman thinks the Red Sox and Burke Badenhop could quickly come to terms on a new contract.  The righty reliever posted a 2.29 ERA in 70 2/3 IP with Boston in 2014.

AL East Notes: Maddon, O’s, Headley, BoSox

Alan Nero, Joe Maddon’s agent, discussed how his client left the Rays for the Cubs in an interview with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.  Nero negotiated with the Rays for five or six days before Maddon opted out of his contract, a decision Maddon reached since Tampa didn’t want to make him one of baseball’s five highest-paid managers.  Maddon was willing to take below-market value to stay but the Rays’ offer was “so far from reality that it just didn’t make sense” for Maddon to accept, according to Nero.  Theo Epstein wouldn’t speak to Maddon until he had written proof of the opt-out and permission from the Commissioner’s office, and Nero considers it “a bit insulting” that the Rays would suspect tampering took place.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Rival teams could be interested in the Orioles‘ catching depth, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko opines.  Despite the presence of Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger and a number of young backstops in the minors, the team is still interested in bringing back veteran Nick Hundley.  Kubatko speculates that Chris Tillman‘s improved performance with Hundley behind the plate could be a factor in why Hundley could return.
  • Mutual interest exists between the Yankees and Chase Headley, though Alex Rodriguez‘s presence and Pablo Sandoval‘s price tag remain obstacles to a signing, George A. King III of the New York Post writes.  Sandoval’s next deal will set the bar for free agent third basemen, with Headley possibly poised to benefit as arguably the second-best 3B on the open market this winter.
  • For the record, King doesn’t think the Yankees are exploring signing Sandoval, though “it is hard to ignore what the Giants third baseman has done in the postseason.”
  • The Red Sox have been hesitant to sign hugely expensive contracts in recent years and, of course, spending is no guarantee of success.  With so many offseason needs, however, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks the team may be more open to one or more big contracts.

East Links: Santana, Sox, Cespedes, Phils, Mets

The Braves are expected to make a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the event that Santana leaves, the team may pursue a top-of-the-rotation type of arm, O’Brien writes, but their lack of financial flexibility would make the trade market a more likely avenue than free agency. O’Brien adds that he finds it unlikely that Santana would accept the QO — a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. He also notes that should the club lose Santana, it might be more motivated to try to retain Aaron Harang, even though he is in line for a sizable raise from the $2MM he earned in 2014 (including incentives). MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Harang, pegging him for a two-year, $14MM contract. Santana was also profiled by MLBTR, with Tim Dierkes projecting a four-year pact worth $56MM.

Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • The Red Sox are prioritizing Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as the look toward the offseason, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The team may also look at Aramis Ramirez, though he’s not believed to be as coveted as Sandoval or Headley and is said to prefer a return to Milwaukee, per Heyman, who adds that the Yankees would like to re-sign Headley. Red Sox third basemen combined to hit just .245/.305/.351 in 2014.
  • Red Sox people strongly denied a previous report that Yoenis Cespedes is hated by the team’s coaching staff, Heyman writes in a second piece. One source called the report “totally untrue,” and manager John Farrell added on MLB Network Radio that the notion was “completely unfounded,” Heyman adds. He goes on to write that a trade of Cespedes is unlikely (though not impossible), given Boston’s overall need for power.
  • The Phillies announced today that their entire coaching staff has agreed to return to the club for the 2015 season.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at the second round of changes coming to the dimensions of Citi Field and writes that the new dimensions may give some type of hint as to which players are most likely to be traded by the Mets this offseason. The Mets are planning to make Citi Field more homer-friendly and build the pitching staff around arms that emphasize strikeouts and ground-balls. Names like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler fit that description, but Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and, to a lesser extent, Rafael Montero are all more prone to fly-balls, making them more likely to be dealt.

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Episode 1

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).

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! You can download the episode directly with this link.

Going forward, the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will run weekly on Thursday evenings.


Free Agent Profile: Chase Headley

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.

Strengths/Pros

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.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees

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.

Weaknesses/Cons

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.

Personal

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.”

Market

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.

Expected Contract

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.


Quick Hits: Maeda, Headley, Miller, Phils

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.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Chase Headley

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.

USATSI_8063274_154513410_lowresStill, 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.