Analysis: Yankees re-sign Chase Headley

After losing David Robertson and Brandon McCarthy, the Yankees finally retained one of their useful pieces from 2014: Chase Headley. OK, yes, they brought back Chris Young too — but he wouldn’t have been nearly as great of a loss as the aforementioned three players. Headley, who signed a four-year, $52M contract, will be the everyday third baseman for the Yankees.

Before re-signing Headley, the infield depth was disconcerting. If Martin Prado was penciled in at the hot corner, the Yankees would have relied on rookies Rob Refsnyder and/or Jose Pirela at second. If Prado was to spend the majority of his time at second, the Yankees might have had to roll the dice with Alex Rodriguez at third. Bringing back Headley alleviates those weaknesses by shifting Prado to second, A-Rod to DH, Pirela to a utility role or Triple-A, and Refsnyder to Scranton.

Inking Headley was sensible in the fact that it improved the team, that much is certain. However, is a four-year, $52M deal sensible? Let’s use a comparison to make a judgement on the preceding question. Below, I present you a comparison of two players and their past two seasons:


Next, I present each player’s 2015 Steamer projection:

CaptureIt’s evident that player X is the better defender, while player Y is the better hitter. The overall difference between the two depends on how much one buys into advanced defensive metrics. If you’re a firm believer in them, then player X is probably your guy. If not, you’d probably lean toward Y seeing that both are above average defensively per the metrics, anyway. Moreover, it’s worth noting that the eye test judges both players favorably with the glove.

Player X is Headley and player Y is another third baseman, Pablo Sandoval. The former received a four-year, $52M deal from the Yankees, while the latter got five years and $95M from Boston. Although the 2015 projection favors Headley slightly, I’m not sure if I buy him being that much better than Sandoval defensively. All else being equal, I’d peg Pablo to be better next season. Markedly better than Headley? I don’t think so, they’ll probably have very similar results in terms of WAR, but I’d grant a slight edge to Sandoval. Regardless, my opinion isn’t too important in this case — what’s more important to understand is that these two guys have a lot in common on the field. Financially, however, it’s a completely different story.

Again, Sandoval and Headley are very similar in ability and play the same position. Yet, Sandoval got one more guaranteed year and $45M more in salary. Headley (30) being two years older than Sandoval (28) can’t alone account for that difference, nor can Pablo’s postseason heroics. Everyone loves a guy who delivers in October, and Pablo has a knack of performing in the spotlight, but free agents don’t get paid mainly on playoff performance. Regular season output is the meat and potatoes, while the postseason results are gravy. Both the Red Sox and Yankees are trying to return to the postseason in 2015, yet both paid very different amounts for players likely to contribute roughly at the same level. With that in mind, from the Yankees standpoint, the pact with Headley must be considered a no-brainer.

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