Monday, December 15, 2014

What if Chase Headley spurns Yankees?

CBS New York’s Sweeny Murti wrote Monday that free agent third baseman Chase Headley is nearing a decision and the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants remain the likely landing spots. The Yankees are eager to hear Headley’s decision so they can get to work on other moves.

Headley, who has a dubious four-year, $65 million “offer on the table” with a mystery team, is wanted back in New York and from some accounts, including Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s, the third baseman wants to remain in pinstripes. In the Yankees new found desire to sign deals that they feel will not hamstring the team’s future the Bombers will likely not go much higher than four-years and $50 million in their offer to Headley. If Headley turns to the Giants or another team what are the Yankees’ options?

Beyond the financial and long term implications of such a deal the Yankees feel that they have an in-house backup plan that can work and do such much cheaper than Headley. The alternative would be to have Martin Prado man third base while Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder stage a competition for the second base role in spring training. It remains to be seen if the Yankees are very high on that option. It is there and they’ve publically commented that it’s an option, but we don’t truly know if it is what they want.

If Headley signs with the Giants or elsewhere and the Yankees get cold feet on the prospects, there are a few alternatives on the free agent market that could either play third or second base for less than Headley’s cost.

One option is Stephen Drew. Drew’s 2014 season was a complete disaster but some in the business believe that given a full spring training he could find his stroke back after slashing .162/.237/.299 in a season to forget. Drew played a bit of second base for the Yankees in 2014, and could fill that spot or even third base, though Drew will still be seen as a shortstop to some teams in the market for one. One advantage in going Drew’s route is it would cost the Yankees just one year as he and agent Scott Boras will want to rebuild his market for a better contract in 2016.

There are two players who might be making moves away from shortstop who could again fill either second or third base, namely Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie. Cabrera, 29, played second base for the Washington Nationals after being traded by the Cleveland Indians where he was their shortstop for several seasons. Cabrera has not been as prominent an offensive force as it was thought he would be after all-star seasons in 2011 and 2012. He put together a .241/.307/.387 line with 14 home runs combined with Cleveland and Washington in 2014. Cabrera could fetch a two or three year contract worth about $10 million annually.

As for Lowrie, he too was thought to be ready for a breakout after posting a .791 OPS in 2013. However, he followed that up with a .676 OPS in 2014. He’s generated a lifetime .261/.333/.411 slash and he’s proven to be competent at both second and third base, logging 432 and 525 innings respectively in his career. Defensive metrics have shown him to be better suited for third base (5.6 UZR/150), though the samples are admittedly small. Lowrie, who turns 31 in April, could be worth about the same as Cabrera, so there is a small commitment with both players.

Truthfully, I do like what Headley has to offer when compared to the alternatives on the market (if staying within the 4 year/$50 million range), and further I would simply deploy the in-house plan if Headley goes elsewhere. I like the idea of availing the younger players some time and I’m not a fan of trying to fill voids with run of the mill free agents when there is the potential for upside with prospects. I don’t consider Headley to be run of the mill and the best free-agent option for the Yankees at this time.

What do you think? If the Yankees fail to sign Headley, should they simply move on with their in-house alternative or speak with any of the players mentioned above? Or is there someone else the Yanks should pursue? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flicker.

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.