Why the Yankees Trading Chase Headley Now Doesn’t Work

Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Yankees continue to strive to be under the luxury tax in 2018, Brett Gardner and Chase Headley have both been floated in potential trades.

After signing Aroldis Chapman and Matt Holliday, the Yankees’ projected 2017 payroll expects to sit around $210M. Next season – the year before both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper become available, the Yankees have a legitimate shot of falling below the $189M tax threshold due to the expiring contracts of Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Tyler Clippard, and Holliday.

Having recently shed Brian McCann’s $17M per season to the Astros, it appears the Yankees are looking to continue their cost-cutting trend by floating the names of Chase Headley and Brett Gardner in trade talks with interested counterparts.

While I agree that it is time for the organization to move the 33-year-old Gardner, coming off his first-ever Gold Glove award, I vehemently disagree on Headley. No, it’s not because I’m holding out hope that he catches lightning in a bottle and reproduces his fantastic 2012 season (.286, 31 HR, 115 RBI), but rather, the options to replace him with do nothing to inspire confidence.

Internal candidates consist of potential DFA target Ronald Torreyes, Rob Refsnyder, career Minor Leaguer Donovan Solano, and the ill-fated recent signing of Ruben Tejada.

While Headley is not Todd Frazier (who I’d love the Yankees to acquire from the White Sox), he’s head and shoulders more accomplished than the rest, and therefore more likely to produce at a higher level for a longer period of time.

Torreyes is a fine utility player and in small doses can contribute when least expected (which he did during the summer while filling in for an injured Headley). But as an everyday player, he will be exposed. At 25, Refsnyder is on the cusp of losing his fringe prospect status. Known best in the Minors for his bat, Joe Girardi utilized Refsnyder ineffectively as a platoon player in 2016, on his way to a dreadful .250 batting average, zero home runs, and 12 RBI.

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Now people will say, ‘But Mike, how is he supposed to develop any kind of consistency in only 175 plate appearances? To that I reply, when you’re a youngish player looking to break into the lineup at all costs, you must prove adept at one particular skill set – which Refsnyder does not. Had he hit .300, slugged a couple of homers, or played sparkling defense in any one of the six different positions he manned last season, then maybe I’d agree that he deserves first crack at third base should Headley be dealt. But he didn’t. So he doesn’t.

As for Tejada, I have no idea why the Yankees signed him unless they truly do intend to release Torreyes at some point between now and Spring Training. I get that Tejada can play multiple infield positions well, but he actually hits less than Refsynder. And in a lineup without multiple consistent run producers, this club can’t take any chances on utilizing a player who batted .167 through 66 at-bats in ’16.

If Tejada actually finds his way onto the big league roster and is used as anything more than a late inning defensive replacement I’ll be shocked. Solano is a poor man’s Tejada, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Many fans have told me via Twitter that they would like to see the Yankees sign free agent Luis Valbuena, should the hot corner become available. But signing Valbuena for what I can only imagine would cost 1-year/$8M, still leaves the club with a gaping hole defensively, in addition to having to use a bench player to play against left-handed pitching (Valbuena is a career .221 hitter against lefties).

At 31, health concerns are beginning to catch up to the Venezuela native as well — as in 292 at-bats in ’16, Valbuena hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI. While this line is OK, is it really worth giving up a much more complete player in Headley, who brings a certain level of stability to an ever-evolving lineup?

If the Yankees are indeed hell-bent on shedding the salary of the 32-year-old former Gold Glove winner, they would be wise to wait until around the All-Star break as to get a better read on the current standing of the team. If Headley is hot and the team is winning you keep him. If not, some contender would likely take a flier on a veteran with only 1-year/$13M remaining on his contract.

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Perhaps then, No. 7 prospect Miguel Andujar will be ready to make his Major League debut. Still raw when it comes to harnessing his explosive power, if Andujar can cut down on his strikeout totals, while taking the next step in his overall development at Triple-A Scranton, then there is a real shot of seeing him in pinstripes come August.