How the Yankees should handle Chase Headley moving forward

At this point in time, I think it's fair to say that the Yankees regret signing Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million contract prior to the start of the 2015 season. The maligned third baseman has struggled for much of the last three seasons. After getting off to a hot start this April, many thought Headley had finally figured it out. As Headley's abysmal performance over the last two months indicates, this was clearly not the case. Up until now, the Yankees have gotten little to no production out of their corner infield positions. The Bombers hope the imminent return of Greg Bird will help resolve the problem at first base, but it appears Headley will continue to get a chance to turn it around. Rumors have been swirling that top prospect Gleyber Torres could be called up to the Majors sooner rather than later. Headley did get two hits in last night's 8-0 victory against the Red Sox so perhaps he is turning it around, but if this is not the case the Yankees should give him about a month before moving on to other options. If he is not providing the Yankees with ample production by the end of July, it is time to either trade Headley or send him to the bench in favor of Torres.

Photo Credit: Andrew Theodorakis/New York Post

For most of his time in New York, Headley has been a favorite target of Yankees fans to subject blame for the team's struggles. As of the writing of this article, Headley is hitting .232 with three home runs, 23 RBIs, a .308 OBP, and a .347 SLG. These numbers are especially mediocre when considering Headley's hot start to the season. At the end of April, Headley was batting .301 with three home runs and eight RBIs, going 25-for-83 over that same course of time.

To put it simply, Headley has looked lost at the plate, fouling off pitches that he should be crushing, and swinging at pitches that he has no business swinging at. Two weeks ago, manager Joe Girardi opted to give Headley two games off against the Oakland Athletics to clear his mind, and hopefully turn things around, but to no avail. The Yankees cannot continue to run Headley out there every night if his struggles persist. This Wednesday's victory against the Red Sox, a game in which both Headley and the also struggling Chris Carter had multiple hits, may very well be the beginning of a change of fortunes for both players who have essentially become automatic outs for opposing pitchers.

Getting little to no production out of both corner infield positions is not sustainable over the course of an entire season. The Yankees are lucky enough to have had other players, such as Aaron Judge, Matt Holliday, and Starlin Castro (just to name a few), carry much of the offensive load. There will come a time, however, when the Bombers will need production out of first and third base. The Yankees have options internally to replace Carter when that time comes. Greg Bird is expected back next week, and he should start seeing the majority of the at bats. Tyler Austin, who was recently activated from the DL and is now in Triple-A, is another option to get some at bats over at first.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Internal options at third base, on the other hand, are not as concrete. The backup infielder currently on the roster, Ronald Torreyes, presents a short term replacement for Headley. While shortstop Didi Gregorius was on the DL for all of April due to an injury he suffered during the World Baseball Classic, Torreyes filled in more than admirably as the starter, even leading team in RBIs for the first two or so weeks of the season. In 36 games thus far, Torreyes is hitting .284 with a home run and 14 RBIs. The 24-year old Venezuelan has gone 29-for-105 over this span. Though Torreyes is a valuable piece of the roster, he is likely not a long-term answer at third.

Top prospect Gleyber Torres, acquired last season for Aroldis Chapman, is the most enticing option to replace Headley. Recently promoted to Triple-A, Torres has seen playing time at second base, shortstop, and third base. Since the Yankees have both Starlin Castro and Gregorius as long-term solutions at the first two positions, the organization has been easing Torres into playing more third base. The problem being, however, that Headley has another season left on his contract. The Yankees paid Alex Rodriguez to go away last August, and are still paying some of Brian McCann's contract after trading him to the Astros. Money should be of no concern for the Yanks in this regard.

Photo Credit: Cliff Welch/Baseball America
Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see Headley turn it around. This would allow Torres to have more time to develop in the minors, and continue on his current trajectory of being a September call up. His play could very well determine his own fate, but there is no denying that it is also partially in the hands of the current big league third baseman. I propose allowing Headley to continue starting through July. If he has not turned it around by the All-Star break, Headley should officially be on notice. As soon as the trade deadline passes, assuming he has not been traded, which is also an unlikely scenario, Headley should be relegated to bench duty. Having a third baseman who cannot even hit .250 is unacceptable.

The 2017 season was supposed to be dedicated to developing the Baby Bombers. To the surprise and joy of all Yankees fans, the team has been much better than expected, and should compete for the division crown. Regardless of contracts, the Yankees should put the best possible team on the field at all times. Headley's fate is in his own hands. Perform, and he will start for the duration of the season. Don't perform, sit on the bench. The next month for Headley will be key, and hopefully his leash is getting shorter by the day.

Article by: Steven Eareckson

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