Monday, December 15, 2014

Headley Headed Back to New York

Headley has replaced Alex Rodriguez as New York's everyday third baseman (NYPost)
Chase Headley, who was traded to the New York Yankees midway through last season, has re-signed with the Bombers on a four-year, $52 million deal.

Headley had a down year by his standards in 2014, batting just .243/.328/.372 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 135 games. Those dismal figures can be attributed to a slow start, which saw Headley spend time on the DL with a strained calf and struggle to bat just .202/.287/.318 through July 3rd. He hit considerably better after that, batting .279/.364/.421 from that point forward, right in line with his career .265/.347/.409 marks.

Part of that turnaround was a result of finally escaping PetCo Park. The switch-hitter has put up good numbers in his new digs, compiling a .823 OPS in 35 games at the new Yankee Stadium. Staying with New York should help mitigate any natural decline he's likely to experience over the course of his contract, which covers his age 31-34 seasons.

Headley strikes me as a player cut from the same cloth as former teammate Stephen Drew: an above average defender on the left side of the infield who can hit a bit. Drew's a year older than Headley and debuted one year before him, but their careers are pretty comparable. Check it out:

S. Drew: 4,218 PA  .256/.322/.425 .747 OPS (93 wRC+)  8.9 BB%  19 K%  .168 ISO  .324 wOBA
Headley: 3,944 PA  .265/.347/.409 .756 OPS (114 wRC+) 10.3 BB% 22.6 K% .144 ISO .334 wOBA

As you can see, very similar hitters. Drew has a bit more power, while Headley gets on base a little more (but also strikes out more). Headley's considerably better after adjusting for league and ballpark, but their raw numbers (read: results) are virtually even. It's funny to think that Headley got a fat four-year deal while Drew will likely have to scrounge around for another one-year deal, hoping somebody takes a flier on him so he can re-establish his value.

Overall I think this is a very fair deal for Headley, who's been worth an average of 4.38 fWAR per year over the past five seasons. During that time, he's been more valuable than Ryan Braun, Jason Heyward, Yadier Molina, David Wright, Adrian Gonzalez, and Pablo Sandoval, among others. At $13 million a year, the Yanks are paying him to be a two-win player when he's typically worth twice that. Even last year, he still graded out as a four-win player according to FanGraphs (B-R had him at just over two, so let's split the difference and call it three). Assuming he doesn't get old overnight defensively and last year wasn't the beginning of a drastic decline at the plate, Headley figures to be a productive player over the life of his new contract.

And that's good for the Yankees, because they can't say that about too many players on their current payroll.

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