Where the Yankees stand

By: Nick Scott 

Yankees Sign Chase Headley
Welcome news finally befell the New York Yankees world today as the team brought back the slick fielding third baseman on a 4 year/$52 million contract. Simple math shows us that the Yankees value Headley as $13 million a year.
For whatever reason many Yankees fans on twitter had been floating around the idea that Headley was an ‘average’ player to which I laugh. Headley has been an outstanding player since breaking into the league and we all know about his MVP caliber 2012 in which he hit .286 while slugging 31 homers and driving in a whopping 115 runs, all while playing home games in hitter hostile PetCo Field, in a league worst Padres lineup. One encouraging note is that his OBP that year was .376 – He posted a .371 OBP after being traded to the Yankees and this has got to be encouraging. If he can get on base the way used to, all the rest of that 2012 season, including those homeruns and RBIs will come back, especially in Yankee Stadium, in a lineup that while is not stellar, is certainly better than the Padres.

Had Headley played a full season the way he played with the Yankees he would’ve hit roughly 16 homeruns and totally 140 hits. This is certainly above average. Don’t believe me? Headley posted an OPS+ of 119 with the Yankees. Obviously he was 19 points above league average, but get this – Pablo Sandoval had an OPS+ of 111 last year and is generally accepted to be a star. Thus, the Yankees did pretty good to sign Headley to a 4yr/$52mil deal when a technically statistically inferior play got 5yr/$95mil. To really drive the point home, remember, A-Rod is getting $27 million a year as a ‘3rd Basemen’ and we all know Headley is far better than he is.

A few other notes, Headley hit .262 with the Pinstripes and walked more times in 58 games with us (29) than his 77 games with the Padres (22). This is clear offensive improvement – walking seven more times in 19 less games isn’t a huge deal, but shouldn’t be forgotten. Additionally his defense is just incredible and anyone who has watched him man the hot corner knows this. Simply put, I think Headley was the victim of a bad lineup, huge ballpark, and a few injuries the last two years in San Diego.

In sumation, I honestly do believe he has the potential to hit 30 homeruns playing half his games in Yankee Stadium. Do I think he will? I wouldn’t bet on it, but he certainly has all the right tools as a hitter to hit around 20 shots and I see him getting back to hitting for an average around .275. My prediction for his season?
.270 AVG.
22 HR
90 RBI
122 OPS+

How do the Yankees look now?
Headley really makes that infield that much better. The Yankees won’t have to give an unproven guy like Rob Refsynder a shot and this is huge, considering I have heard more than one place the ‘surging’ second basemen has been far overhyped and has real defensive difficulties and isn’t that advanced of a hitter. I prefer we leave the infield to surer things for right now, after all, when was the last time a Yankee offensive prospect really turned into a star? Jose Pirela showed he can hit at the big league level though and I think he should certainly be given the bench role over Refsynder.

Thus the infield looks like it will be Teixeira-Prado-Gregorius-Headley. On first look it doesn’t appear to be all that glamorous. However, this is definitely one of the best defensive infields the Yankees have had in a while. We all know that Teixeira is the best defensive 1B in the league when healthy and that Prado and Headley turned plenty heads with the leather the flashed in the infield once acquired by the team. Gregorius actually has below average defensive numbers, but he clearly has all the potential to improve and really anybody will be better at short than Jeter has been the last few years.

It might not be a bad group at the plate either. Teixeira is a huge wild card. When he’s healthy he’s a threat to go deep multiple times a game and sees a lot of pitches. However, he has very real health concerns, though I should note most his injuries towards the end of ’14 were pretty fluky (dizziness, getting cleated, etc.). Prado and Headley will both like hit around .270 and hit somewhere between 15-20 homeruns. When we account for injury risk, these guys are definitely the best hitters the Yankees have inside the outfield grass. As far as Gregorius goes, anything he does will be plus, because he’s regressed heavily from his first full season and that’s a big red flag.

It seems like this is for sure the infield the team will roll with going into 2015. Yes, I gave a very positive outlook on the four, but I still have big concerns for the offense. We have a lot of contact oriented guys, but don’t have a reliable slugger outside of Brian McCann and if healthy Mark Teixeira. Carlos Beltran has turned out to be a mess. He struggled with injury all year and didn’t hit at all when healthy. Coupled with the fact he’s only getting older and the man doesn’t hustle at all, I have no reason to expect anything more than what we saw last year out of him. Additionally, it seems like his time as a playable right fielder has come to an end. This creates a jam at DH between him and the equally defensively deficient Alex Rodriguez. I have no clue how this will be resolved and while the Yankees won’t do it, one of them, if not both need to go. These are two guys with egos who can’t play or stay healthy and the team would just be better off without them.

All in all it seems the offense is going to need big years out of Tex, McCann, Prado, Headley, and Ellsbury. I think the last three are reliable, but we really need Teixeira and McCann to hit like we paid them too this year and while I can’t blame many for doubting they can, I will choose to be optimistic and predict 60 homeruns between the too. Yep. Bold.

Obviously the Yankees need starting pitching though and I’m sure they will pursue some. I am starting to have doubts Max Scherzer will be the answer though he should be. Be sure to keep an eye out for when I discuss this and other pitching solutions for the Yankees squad later this week, but until then thanks for reading all and happy Headley Monday!

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference

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