Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Yankees could stay in-house at third and second base

As the New York Yankees watched the Boston Red Sox make two splashes in the free agent market Monday, one of the moves will begin a domino effect forcing them to turn their attention to one of their offseason priorities, Chase Headley.

With Pablo Sandoval off the third-base market, agreeing to a five-year, $95 million deal with a club option according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, Headley will use that figure to bolster his contract desires.

The Yankees were always going to have some competition for Headley’s services. The San Francisco Giants will surely get involved with Headley and it can be expected that the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox who both showed early interest in Sandoval could check in on Headley. The San Diego Padres, who dealt Headley to the Yankees, might seek a reunion with Headley, but it seems unlikely as they continue to pursue Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas.

The Yankees would be happy with Headley for a three-year stint, but it seems apparent to me that it will take a four-year commitment and anywhere from $52-60 million to get the job done. If the term and salary gets that high and the Yankees balk, they could fall back on some in-house options.

First, they can place Martin Prado at the hot corner. He’s played more than 3,000 innings at third base in his career and has shown to be a more than adequate defender (5.4 UZR-150 for his career at third). It has been roundly thought that Prado would occupy second base assuming Headley returned. If Prado moves to third and the Yankees want to test the youth movement at second base, they have two highly regarded players who could fill the role.

Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela have made considerable movement through the system, with Pirela also impressing at the major league level once called up last September. The Yankees could allow Refsnyder and Pirela to compete for the second base job in spring training.

Refsnyder is a work in progress on the defensive side, while Pirela is an average defender. Both players can hit, and while not of the ilk of Robinson Cano, they would surely not be any worse than opening the season with Brian Roberts at the keystone. Steamer projects Refsnyder to be a 2.5 fWAR player if given 600 plate appearances, while Pirela is estimated at 1.9 fWAR.

Sure, the Yankees could check on trade options for third base (Aramis Ramirez) or second base (Howie Kendrick), but why not take this low-cost approach which has plenty of upside and costs nothing from the farm system?

Any money saved from losing out on Headley could be quickly portioned to the starting pitcher, shortstop and reliever roles the Yankees are looking to fill. It’s possible they could go full tilt toward Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or even James Shields if they decided not to invest in Headley for four years. Or they could sign Brandon McCarthy and a similar starter to add depth to a suspect rotation in terms of injury risk.

For once, it would be nice to see the Yankees trust in their initial game plan. One which they said would be free from over-the-top spending. What better way to fill voids than from within and with players who are proven (Prado) and those who have significant upside (Refsnyder and Pirela)?

I agree Headley should be a priority, but if he’s going to cost four years and $60 million, I’d begin thinking about Prado, Refsnyder and Pirela as bonafide options instead.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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