Scratch another top-rated costless agent off the Christmas wish list. The New York Yankees have re-signed third baseman Chase Headley to a four-year contract. The Yankees announced the deal via Twitter Monday afternoon.
The #Yankees sign 3B Chase Headley to a 4-year contract. pic.twitter.com/oQol2pWXda— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 15, 2014
MLB.com's Paul Casella reports that the contract is worth $52 million, making the average annual value $13 million.
Headley was CBS Sports.com's #7 overall costless agent position player and second-ranked third baseman behind only Pablo Sandoval, who recently signed a five-year, $95-million contract with the Boston Red Sox. With a thin costless-agent market at third base, Headley seems to have earned that high ranking more for his 2012 season (.286/.376/.498, 31 HR, 115 RBI, Gold Glove, and Sliver Slugger awards) rather than for what he has done since.
Headley came to the Yankees on July 22 via a trade with the San Diego Padres for infielder Yangervis Solarte. As a Yankee, he showed flashes of that 2012 season by hitting .262 /.371 /.398 with 6 HR and 17 RBI in 58 games. That is still under his 2012 pace but far better than what he did in San Diego before the trade. At age 30, he has plenty of chance to show that he can return to the form that led to his N.L. MVP consideration just two years ago.
With the return of Headley, questions resurface about what the Yankees will/should do with returning third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Whether fans and/or teammates like it or not, "A-Rod" is back, and he will not make $21 million to sit on the bench. At least the Yankees did not have to pay him much (roughly $2.86 million) to serve his suspension in 2014. Headley, though, expects to get the bulk of the playing time at third base. Casella quoted Headley discussing just that matter. Said Headley,
"That was something we discussed early on, but I viewed myself as a third baseman and that's where I feel like I help this team the best. Wherever I'm playing, I'm going to give everything I have, but that's a conversation we had and I think the vast majority of my time will be spent at third base."
At age 39 (40 come mid-season) and overcoming hip and leg problems that caused him to miss most of 2013, Rodriguez is now much better suited for the full-time DH role. The Yankees have not had a steady DH for a number of years; they have alternated older players in and out of the position to give them somewhat of a rest while keeping their bats in the lineup. Rumors also have Rodriguez playing some first base while Mark Teixeira serves as the DH.
No longer will Rodriguez hit like A-Rod. No more will he hit 50+ home runs, drive in 140+ runs, or steal 50+ bases. He will not win another Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, or MVP award, and he will most likely not make the All-Star team. Still, though, he could have what many players would call a solid season similar to what he did in the Yankees' last division-winning season of 2012: .272/.353/.430, 18 HR, and 57 RBI in 122 games. Playing as the DH may get him more games and at bats while taking much of the pressure and impact off his hips and legs.
Rodriguez may no longer play like "A-Rod," but he still has three years and $61 million on his contract. Few teams would take on that contract of an aging and oft-injured player, and the Yankees certainly would not want to pay that much to a bench/role player. Expect Rodriguez to get his share of at bats whether at third base, first base, or designated hitter. At this point, though, the DH role looks the most inviting.