Chase Headley, perhaps the most mentioned name in trade rumors in recent years, is the latest Yankee acquisition in this summer’s trade season. In exchange for a good but not great pitching prospect (Rafael de Paula) and a winter scrap heap pickup (Yangervis Solarte), the Yankees bolstered their outlook at the hot corner for the next couple of months.
Pre-trade, Headley’s rest of season ZiPS projection stood at .247/.328/.395 (.723 OPS, .321 wOBA). After the deal, accounting for park and league adjustments, the forecast is up to .253/.331/.426 (.757 OPS). That’s not a big jump in on-base ability, but a nice boost in pop. The other internal candidates projected OPS for the remainder of the season? Certainly worse:
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Headley, 30, is an upgrade defensively at third, too. You don’t need any advanced metrics to see that the Yankees’ infield defense has been pitiful. Yankees’ scouts have Headley as an average defender, while advanced metrics peg him to be above average at the position. Either way, it’s an upgrade.
It’s no secret that Headley’s 2012 looks like a career outlier, but one can certainly dream on him being a benefactor of Yankee Stadium. All-time, his home/road OPS split is .703/.804, and his home/road wRC+ split is 107/118. Brian Cashman noted that he’s performed much better since receiving an epidural for his back, posting a 110 wRC+ in 21 games and improved hit velocity. I trust the ZiPS projection far more than the 21 game sample, but it’s not inconceivable that he could outperform it given the circumstances. Regardless, I’ll take the ZiPS estimate over what the Yankees had beforehand.
Headley is a free agent at the end of the year, with the Yankees paying three of the remaining four million dollars this season. The Yankees have coveted Headley, so if he impresses in this summer audition, there’s a decent chance he’s brought back for 2015 and beyond.
Losing Solarte isn’t a blow to the Yankees. His April/May surge was a very pleasant surprise, but realistically, the guy is probably a utility player at best. There’s a reason he toiled away in the minors for so many years before 2014. De Paula, on the other hand, is an actual prospect. I’ll leave it to John Sickels to provide a scouting report:
Listed at 6-2, 215, De Paula’s current birthday is March 24, 1991 [He has had identity issues]. He had one of the top fastballs in the Yankees system, consistently in the mid-90s with movement. However, his slider and changeup are very erratic and he loses the touch with his mechanics at times, hampering his control. Many scouts see him as a future reliever due to his inconsistency with his secondary pitches.
This trade looks to be a wise one for Brian Cashman and company. He made a solid upgrade at a position in need without giving up too much in return. It would be a shocker if Headley was any worse than the internal options — so even if he performs like an average player, he’s a nice boost in the lineup and defensively.