Thoughts after Yankees re-sign Chase Headley

I'm a sucker for Gatorade shower photos. (Elsa/Getty)
I’m a sucker for a good Gatorade shower photo. (Elsa/Getty)

I was originally planning to post a post-Winter Meetings thoughts post, but then the Yankees re-signed Chase Headley yesterday morning, so I changed gears. Instead of a post-Winter Meetings thoughts post, here’s a post with some post-Headley deal and post-Winter Meetings thoughts combined into one post. To the post:

1. So that reported four-year, $65M offer Headley had from an unknown team had to be made up, right? It had to be his agent trying to drive up the price. As cool as it would be to say Headley turned down substantially more money to return to New York because the Yankees are totally awesome and everyone else sucks, I have a hard time thinking a rational human being would pass up that much extra money just because he liked playing somewhere. Take $1M less per year like Andrew Miller? Sure. I can buy that. But $3.25M per year like Headley? That’s a lot of money for the kids — Headley’s wife just had a baby, Joe Girardi said at the Winter Meetings — and the kids’ kids and the kids’ kids’ kids to leave on the table. Maybe it’s true and Headley really did value playing in New York so much that he turned down an extra $13M or so. That would be cool. I just have a hard time believing it. That reported $65M offer seems like a classic “agent trying to drive up the price” move. (For what it’s worth, Headley told Jack Curry yesterday he did turn down more money to return to the Yankees without giving specifics.)

2. With Headley back, the 13 position player slots on the roster heading into next season are just about set. We know who the nine starters will be — assuming Alex Rodriguez is the regular DH — and the bench will have Brendan Ryan, Chris Young, either John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine as the backup catcher, and probably Jose Pirela in the last spot. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to bring in potential bench piece or two as a non-roster invitee to push Pirela (and Ryan?) in camp, maybe someone like Adam Rosales or, day I say, Jayson Nix, but that’s not a pressing issue right now. Either way, Headley will join Didi Gregorius, Martin Prado, and Mark Teixeira as the regular infielders. The Opening Day infield last year was Teixeira, Brian Roberts, fading Derek Jeter, and Kelly Johnson. The year before it was Kevin Youkilis at first, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, and Nix. Even though it lacks a bonafide superstar like Cano, the projected 2015 infield looks so much better than what they ran out there from 2013-14. Million times better. They actually have a bonafide Major League caliber player at all four positions. That wasn’t the case the last two years.

3. The Headley signing presumably pushes Rob Refsnyder back to Triple-A Scranton to start next season — I suppose he could beat out Pirela for the last bench job, but I’m not expecting that to happen — and I do think that’s the best thing for his development, especially defensively. Learning on the fly in the big leagues is not easy. I’ve said this a million times already: when someone inevitably gets hurt next summer, the Yankees can move Prado to whatever position to fill in for the injury, then call up Refsnyder to play second. I am not at all a fan of handing a non-elite prospect a job out of Spring Training and prefer Refsnyder to get his opportunity as an injury replacement at midseason. I’m pretty sure I’ve written this before, but I think the best case scenario for his MLB arrival is the Brett Gardner path — up and down the first year, part-time role the second year, then full-time role the third year. The adjustment from Triple-A to MLB is more difficult now than ever before — Brian MacPherson recently spoke to a bunch of executives about this — and anything the Yankees can do to ease Refsnyder’s transition is a positive in my eyes. And, of course, re-signing Headley presumably makes Refsnyder (and Eric Jagielo?) more available in a trade, especially if they’re confident in Pirela going forward. If Refsnyder (or Jagielo!) can help land a pitcher with a few years of control left, it’s definitely something the Yankees should explore.

Nightmare fuel. (@TomLeyden)
Nightmare fuel. (@TomLeyden)

4. I do believe the Yankees are sincere when they say they will pass on handing a huge money long-term deal to Max Scherzer. He’s an excellent pitcher and would obviously be a huge help. That’s not really up for debate. The question is whether Scherzer and a bunch of scrap heap arms are better for the club than spreading the money around and signing two or three pitchers for similar 2015 money. Say Hiroki Kuroda, Edinson Volquez, and Chad Billingsley. Or Volquez, Brandon Morrow, and Chris Capuano. (Not endorsing either set of pitchers, just throwing names out there.) The Yankees need multiple starters right now and chances are they’ll have to dip into the scrap heap at some point this summer anyway, so maybe it’s better to get two solid pitchers rather than one great one. As good as Scherzer is, he does only take the ball once every fifth day. As Joe detailed last week, the Yankees have almost no money coming off the books next offseason (Shawn Kelley, Young, maybe Ryan, that’s all), so signing Scherzer probably means they have to sit out free agency (the big names, anyway) next winter barring a payroll increase. One year deal guys like Kuroda, Billingsley, Morrow, and/or Capuano would both help the 2015 rotation and leave some financial flexibility for next winter, when three legit aces (David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto) and several other solid starters (Doug Fister, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Mat Latos) are scheduled to hit the market. Some will sign extensions, sure, but some will inevitably hit the market. There’s too many for that not to happen. At that point the Yankees will be a year away from shedding Teixeira’s and Carlos Beltran‘s contracts (maybe CC Sabathia‘s as well), making a another big money deal a little easier to swallow. I’m in favor of skipping Scherzer, signing a few cheaper starters, then revisiting the pitching market next offseason.

5. Over the last year or so, there has been an uptick in the number of MLB player for MLB player trades going down around the league. At the Winter Meetings last week there was the Matt Kemp/Yasmani Grandal trade, the Jeff Samardzija/Marcus Semien trade, and the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes trade. At the trade deadline we had the Jon Lester/Cespedes swap, the John Lackey/Allen Craig deal, and the David Price/Austin Jackson/Drew Smyly three-team trade, among others. There are still plenty of MLB player for prospect deals (the first Samardzija trade, the Dee Gordon/Andrew Heaney deal, etc.), but the MLB player for MLB player trades are happening more often nowadays. I find these trades more fun and interesting, and I’m pretty sure they’re due to the second wildcard. It’s easier to get into the postseason than ever before, and there are many more buyers than sellers. Teams don’t want to take risky prospects in return for their established big leaguers because those prospects can’t help them win right now, so they’re focused on getting other established big leaguers back in return. The Yankees made four trades before the deadline this summer and three of the four were big leaguer for big leaguer. The only exception was the Prado/Peter O’Brien swap. Contrary to what many seem to think, the Yankees do have some tradeable assets on their MLB roster. Will they use any of them to get help elsewhere on the roster at the trade deadline? Intrigue!

6. We all know the Yankees have a lot of injury risk in the rotation heading into next year, and also some on the position player side, and that’s really scary. So I’m going to close with this as a change of pace: what if everything goes right? What if Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow holds up and Michael Pineda makes 30+ starts? And that CC Sabathia’s surgically rebuilt knee gives him a more stable landing and better effectiveness? What if A-Rod returns from his year away with a fully healthy body and rakes in his new role as the DH? What if the bone spur was the only reason Beltran didn’t hit in the second half in 2014? What if Teixeira starts mashin’ taters now that he’s more than a full year removed from wrist surgery? Just humor me for a second. What if all that stuff we’re all expecting to go wrong instead goes right? How amazing would that be? I think the Yankees would win the AL East in a landslide in that case, and then they’d go into the postseason with two aces, a dominant bullpen, and a deep lineup. Realistic? Nah. Fun as hell think about? You bet.

Jorge Posada, Jose Contreras sue financial managers after losing millions in alleged scam

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

According to Jorge Arangure, Jorge Posada and his wife Laura are suing Juan Carlos Collar and Anthony Fernandez of Quantum Ventures, LLC over “what they believe was a blatant and negligent mismanagement of funds.” The suit was recently filed in Miami. The Posadas were allegedly scammed out of approximately $11.2M. Ex-Yankee Jose Contreras is also suing Collar and Fernandez after losing more than $2M.

Posada entrusted his money to Collar and Fernandez way back in 1999, says Arangure. Collar and Fernandez “received all of the player’s mail, filed their tax returns, wrote checks for them, and were given the authority to make whatever investments they wanted” with Posada’s money. It wasn’t until Posada hired an independent investigator to audit his finances in 2010 that the wrongdoing was discovered. Here are the details of the scheme, from Arangure:

Shortly after founding Quantum in 2005, Collar and Fernandez formed a separate company to handle speculative real estate deals—Sunset Trails, LLC—into which they put $3 million of the Posadas’ money. But the $3 million didn’t ensure the Posadas any ownership of the properties Sunset Trails purchased. Instead, the money only entitled them to membership in the LLC. So the Posadas had no say in what happened with any purchase.

On July 28, 2005, Sunset Trails purchased a plot of land for $13.5 million for the purpose of “developing an elite equestrian-themed community for the wealthy,” according to Contreras’s complaint. Most peculiar was that Sunset Trails purchased the land from Southern Acres of Florida, LLC, who on that same day had purchased the land for $8,402,900. In less than a day, Southern Acres had made a $5,049,000 profit.

For example, both complaints outline that Quantum received a 1 percent management fee ($135,000) for Sunset Trails’ $13.5 million land purchase. Quantum also set up various conditions within the deal that gave them an even greater profit. For example, Quantum received the first 20 percent of all net profits. In total, Quantum was in a position to receive nearly 60 percent of all Sunset Trails earnings on the deal, a condition to which no independent company would have agreed upon. But Sunset Trails was not an independent company. Collar and Fernandez managed Sunset Trails.

Additionally, Fernandez served as the real estate agent on the deal, meaning he personally pocketed approximately $350,000 on the sale, according to Posada’s complaint.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that. It’s jaw dropping,” said Posada’s attorney to Arangure. “They would go to Jorge and they would have a stack of documents to sign, and they would just say ‘sign here,’ and Jorge would sign it. He completely trusted these guys with all of their finances. All of their money. Whatever the Posadas made, went directly into their accounts with these guys. That’s the kind of trust they had. The Posadas never in any way used other money managers, other investments. Everything was through these guys.”

The Sunset Trails land is currently being leased to a farmer and Posada’s money is still tied up in it. Collar and Fernandez will make nearly $750,000 in rent over the next five years. Because he was duped into being a member rather than an owner, Posada has no say in what happens to the property. Same with Contreras. Posada also invested over $8M into Quantum Hedge Fund, which invested in “risky, high leverage hedge funds.”

According to Baseball Reference, Posada banked more than $117M in player contracts during his time with the Yankees. That is before taxes and doesn’t include any endorsements or his MLBPA pension. Contreras made more than $67M during his time in MLB. Both lawsuits are set to go to trial next year.

Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today, before the Yankees agreed to re-sign Chase Headley, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) ranked the six divisions based on where they stand right now. The AL Central, which I think has four legitimate contenders in the non-Twins teams, claims the top spot and is followed in order by the NL Central, AL West, NL West, AL East, and NL East. I might flip the NL West and AL East — the NL West is just one superpower and one other very good team while the AL East is five okay-ish teams, any of whom could probably win the division if things break right — but otherwise it seems like a good list to me. The AL East was the undisputed best division for a very long time, but that definitely isn’t the case anymore.

Anyway, this is your open thread for the night. The Saints and Bears are the Monday Night Football game, plus the Devils and Islanders are playing (each other). There’s also some college basketball on as well. Talk about those games, Headley coming back, the division rankings, or anything else right here.

Eddy: Yankees re-sign Jose Campos to minor league contract

(AP)
(AP)

According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have re-signed right-hander Jose Campos to a minor league contract. Campos was non-tendered a few weeks ago along with David Huff and Slade Heathcott. Last week Brian Cashman confirmed they were hoping to re-sign both Campos and Heathcott to minor league deals. There’s no word on whether they’ve re-signed Heathcott yet.

Campos, 22, was the other player the Yankees received in the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade a few years ago. He was a very good pitching prospect at the time but has battled elbow injuries these last three seasons, including Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2014 season. Campos has a 3.55 ERA (3.23 FIP) in only 111.2 innings since the trade, all with Low-A Charleston.

Last we heard, Campos was throwing from 90 feet as part of his rehab, though that was way back in early-October. The typical Tommy John surgery rehab schedule would have him throwing off a mound by now and introducing breaking balls very soon if he hasn’t already. The Yankees could be taking it slow after a series of elbow injuries, of course. Either way, he should be game ready at some point early in 2015.

Once healthy and all rehabbed from the elbow reconstruction, I expect Campos to head to High-A Tampa next summer and spend the remainder of the season there. It’ll be interesting to see if the Yankees move him into the bullpen after two major elbow injuries in the last three years. There’s always been some thought Campos would be best suited for relief due to his delivery and his secondary pitches. We’ll see.

Front office perception and the Yankees

They ate how much money and traded him for what? (Harry How/Getty)
They ate how much money and traded him for what? (Harry How/Getty)

The 2014 Winter Meetings came and went last week, and although the Yankees didn’t make any moves, it was the busiest Winter Meetings I can remember. The 2008 Winter Meetings were pretty hectic — the Yankees signed both CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett that week — but nothing compared to this year. There were a ton of high profile signings and trades in San Diego last week, and yet there are still more on the way. Max Scherzer and James Shields are unsigned and Justin Upton is still on the trade block.

The busiest team during the Winter Meetings last week was the Dodgers, who swung three major trades and landed a notable free agent in the span of about 18 hours from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning. As those deals were going down, I saw nothing but approval for the job ex-Rays GM Andrew Friedman was doing. Whether it was real time reaction on Twitter or analysis posts filed later, it was nothing but love for what the Dodgers were doing. Universal praise.

And yet, of all their moves, the only one that struck me as great was the Jimmy Rollins trade. (I really like Rollins as a one year stopgap shortstop.) The Dee Gordon trade? I mean, didn’t anyone actually stop to think that maybe he’s good now? (Drew Fairservice did.) Or that the Marlins are legitimately excellent at player development, so maybe there’s a reason top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney was available? Trade four years of Gordon for six of Heaney? Brilliant! Flip six years of Heaney for one of Howie Kendrick? Somehow also brilliant! Also, isn’t it amazing how almost no one is questioning four years for Brandon McCarthy now?

Then there’s the Matt Kemp trade, in which the Dodgers ate so much money that they turned his contract into a five-year, $75M deal. Isn’t that entirely reasonable for a just turned 30-year-old who is one of only 18 players to slug .500+ over the last four years? All the Dodgers got back was a catcher who has been lauded for his pitch framing (Yasmani Grandal), a broken young pitcher (Joe Wieland), and a Single-A prospect (Zach Eflin). The ultimate win now team just traded one of their two best hitters for that package. I guess I don’t see that as deserving of the instant, unquestioned praise it received.

So anyway, those moves and the reaction to those moves got me thinking about how people perceive certain front offices. If anyone other than Friedman had made those moves, I’m pretty sure they would have been viewed differently. No doubt about it in my mind. Theo Epstein & Co. are treated the same way as Friedman. On the other side of the coin, we snicker at everything Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik or Royals GM Dayton Moore does. Or at least we did until Moore’s team went to the World Series. Giants GM Brian Sabean was the butt of many jokes until he built a dynasty.

How do people perceive the Yankees front office? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Based on what I’ve seen and read over the years, it seems like the majority of non-Yankees fans generally like the team’s moves more than Yankees fans. I’ve seen very few non-Yankees fans think the Didi Gregorius trade was a mistake, for example. Almost zero. Is that because they hadn’t seen enough of Shane Greene to fall in love with him? Or because they better understand just how hard it is to get a young shortstop because they haven’t been watching Derek Jeter for two decades? I don’t know. Could be both.

Here is a relevant tweet from a non-Yankees fan:

Patrick’s talking about handing out some market value contracts and making one big trade. The Yankees, because of their payroll, tend to buy big money free agents rather than mid-range free agents like the ChiSox, but the idea is the same. Market value signings and a big trade. When the Yankees do it, it’s bad. When the Rick Hahn does it, it’s genius. (Full disclosure: I really like what Hahn’s done this winter.)

These biases exist and that’s perfectly fine. It’s human nature. We have biases about players and that extends into the front office. The Dodgers’ moves drew praise last week because Friedman was excellent while with the Rays, consistently building a contender with a shoestring budget. He earned the benefit of the doubt. But these days it isn’t so much benefit of the doubt as it is unquestioned approval. We don’t even consider the “what if Friedman just made a big mistake?” option. Doesn’t even cross our minds. Meanwhile, it feels like “what if Cashman just made a big mistake?” is the default setting for many fans.

As someone who writes a lot about baseball, especially about the Yankees, I can’t tell you how many times a move has been made, my initial reaction is “it sucks” or “this is awesome,” and I find myself writing a post that fits my opinion. Happens way too often, especially when I’m trying to crank something out quickly. I’m not going to sit here and tell people what to think. I just think we’d all be better served if we removed our preconceived notions — that’s very difficult! — and took a second to consider the alternative. What if Friedman did make a mistake? What if this relatively quiet Yankees offseason is, in fact, the best thing for the Yankees long-term?

Yankees re-sign Chase Headley to four-year deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4:57pm: Sherman says the contract does not include any no-trade protection. Headley will receive a $1M assignment bonus if he is traded during the life of the contract, however.

1:54pm: The Yankees have officially announced the signing, so it’s a done deal. Here are the (very favorable) ZiPS projections for the contract, if you’re into that sort of thing. Steve Adams says it’s a four-year deal worth $52M guaranteed, plus Headley can earn an additional $1M each season when he reaches 550 plate appearances, so the contract can max out at $56M. As with the Gregorius trade and Andrew Miller signing, the Yankees went from rumor to agreement to press release in less than four hours. They run a pretty tight ship in the Bronx. Not many leaks at all.

10:53am: After doing not much of anything at the Winter Meetings last week, the Yankees handled one of their most important remaining pieces of offseason business on Monday by filling out the infield. The club has agreed to re-sign Chase Headley to a four-year contract worth approximately $51M to $52M. There are no option years and the deal is still pending a physical. Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, and Joel Sherman all had a hand in breaking the news.

A few weeks ago we heard Headley had a four-year offer worth $65M in hand from an unknown team (rumored to be the Astros), and Jack Curry says Yankees officials do believe that offer was legitimate. If true, Headley took a whole lot less money to return to New York. The Yankees, for what it’s worth, initially said they wouldn’t give Headley four years until caving last week and saying they would do it as long as the contract came with a lower annual salary.

Headley, 30, hit .262/.371/.398 (121 wRC+) with six homers in 58 games with the Yankees after being acquired at the trade deadline this past season. He hit .243/.328/.372 (103 wRC+) with 13 homers in 135 games overall between New York and San Diego in 2014. That came with his usual standout defense at the hot corner as well. That’s where he’ll have his biggest impact, in the field. All you need to know about Headley — including his often overstated history of back problems — is in our Scouting The Market post.

After the season, Headley reportedly told friends he enjoyed playing in New York more than he thought he would, and that he would consider returning as long as he was an everyday player. “I know they have a player under contract,” he said after the season, referring to Alex Rodriguez. “We’ll see how that shakes out. We’ll see what my role would look like … I want to be a guy that plays. At what position? Obviously, third base I think is my strongest position. I don’t want to be a part-time guy.”

With Headley on board, the Yankees figure to play Martin Prado at second base and use A-Rod as the primary DH. It also means Carlos Beltran will see most of his action in right field. At least as long as he and Alex are both healthy at the same time, anyway. Rob Refsnyder will presumably return to Triple-A and wait until injury strikes. When that happens (inevitable), Prado can move around to fill in and Refsnyder can take over at second. Jose Pirela still has a clear path to a bench job.

Although Headley will probably never get back to being the hitter he was in 2012 (31 homers and a 145 wRC+), he’s still no worse than a league average hitter and a well above average defender, making him a huge upgrade at third based compared to whom the Yankees have been running out there the last two or three years. With Didi Gregorius recently acquired to play short, the Yankees now have an average or better defender at all four infield positions. The ground ball heavy pitching staff will appreciate that.

Now that the lineup and position player group has been settled, the Yankees can focus on improving the pitching staff, which still needs at last two starters and maybe another reliever as well. Max Scherzer and James Shields remain unsigned but the team continues to insist they will not hand out the massive contracts it would take to sign them. They’ll scour the second and third tier pitching options, maybe hope Hiroki Kuroda returns, and go from there.

Fan Confidence Poll: December 15th, 2014

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

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