It’s a trade that’s been years in the making, but the Yankees finally pulled the trigger on Tuesday, acquiring third baseman Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres. New York sends Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula to San Diego and the Yankees also receive $1 million in cash from the Padres.
Headley, 30, a switch-hitter with a history of hitting for power, solves a problem for the Yankees, as he should be the everyday starter at third base for the rest of the season. His best year was 2012, when he hit .286 with 31 doubles, 31 homers and an NL-best 115 RBI. He finished fifth in the MVP voting and won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
But he’s struggled since.
He hit just .250 with 13 homers in 2013. This season, a slow start has him at well below those peak numbers. Headley hit .186 in April, .212 in May and .205 in June, but he’s had a scorching July, hitting .323 with four doubles, one triple and one homer to go along with nine RBI through 15 games this month.
A free agent a season’s end, Headley wasn’t going to cost much. A strong second half in New York could propel the Yankees to a playoff berth and it might give New York an edge in contract talks with perhaps their third baseman of the future.
As for what the Yankees gave up, we’ll start with Solarte. He had a red-hot start in April, hitting .303 and following that up with a .296 average in May to go along with five homers and 13 RBI. He’s cooled off considerably since and has lost playing time to Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson. Solarte, 27, a minor league veteran of the Rangers and Twins systems, is probably no more than a capable reserve infielder at the major league level, so Headley will be a major upgrade here.
De Paula, 23, is in his second season at High-A Tampa. In three minor league seasons, he’s 21-12 with a 3.58 ERA and has struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings. The right-hander has shown plenty of promise, but he will still need to prove himself at Double-A and Triple-A before he gets a chance in the majors. So time will tell whether the Yankees regret giving him away.
Like the Brandon McCarthy trade right before the All-Star break, the Yankees have made themselves better via the trade market, without having to give up much in return. McCarthy has pitched well in his few starts so far – and we’ll see how Headley performs down the stretch – but you have to tip your cap to Yankees GM Brian Cashman for finding ways to make the team stronger without sacrificing the top prospects in the system.
Headley gives Joe Girardi another switch-hitting bat, so he could hit anywhere in the lineup, probably sixth or seventh depending on who’s playing. He also allows Kelly Johnson to focus on his duties at first base with Mark Teixeira out and puts Brendan Ryan and Brian Roberts in a platoon at second base.
Do the Yankees have any moves left to make? I would think Cashman is still looking for starting pitchers. The latest rumor is John Danks of the Chicago White Sox, a serviceable veteran lefty, but a pitcher who has struggled since being sidelined with a shoulder injury in 2012.