Frazier, Adams, and Fowler among Baseball America’s top Double-A prospects

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued earlier this week with the Double-A Eastern League (subs. req’d). Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada and OF Andrew Benintendi claimed the top two spots. Pirates OF Austin Meadows is third. Three Yankees farmhands made the top 20: OF Clint Frazier (No. 8), RHP Chance Adams (No. 18), and OF Dustin Fowler (No. 20).

“(Frazier’s) swing is short, compact and features some of the best bat speed in the minors, thanks to exceptionally strong forearms, hands and wrists. He’s also a baseball rat who zealously studies opposing hitters and pitchers,” said the write-up, which also praised him for his center field speed and right field arm. It’s worth noting Frazier did not play in Double-A with the Yankees. He was in Triple-A. His spot on this list stems from his time with the Indians.

Adams, who was also on the High-A Florida State League list, is said to attack hitters with a “heavy, mid-90s fastball, then finishes them off with a sharp-diving slider in the mid-80s and a changeup with fade in the high 80s that he developed over the course of the season with Trenton pitching coach Jose Rosado.” He’s also working on a curveball and now has mid-rotation ceiling after being drafted in the fifth round as a reliever last year. Quite a find, Adams was.

Fowler was called one of the league’s “best-kept secrets” because he’s a no-doubt long-term center fielder with a chance for a leadoff hitter profile if he can improve his on-base skills. “He has the speed to bunt for hits if necessary … One manager noted Fowler had a vulnerability on the inside part of the plate, and he hardly ever walks,” said the scouting report. Fowler was an 18th round pick back in 2013, by the way.

In the chat, Josh Norris said 3B Miguel Andujar has “the marks of a player who can stick at third base,” though he “needs to control the strike zone better at the plate” to fully tap into his power. Also, SS Tyler Wade is lauded for being a “player who does a little bit of everything but not a lot of any one tool.” Wade and LHP Jordan Montgomery were “both in consideration (for the to 20), but the league’s extreme depth didn’t help their cases.”

You can see all of the league top 20 lists without a subscription right here. The last list of interest to Yankees fans is the Triple-A International League, which could be great or boring. I’m not sure whether guys like Frazier, OF Aaron Judge, C Gary Sanchez, 1B Tyler Austin, RHP Chad Green, RHP Luis Cessa, and RHP Ben Heller got enough plate appearances/innings to quality for the list. We’ll see.

The Year Everything Went Wrong for Nathan Eovaldi [2016 Season Review]

Now that the 2016 season is complete and the dust has settled, it’s time to begin our annual season review series. This year was a complicated one. That’s for sure.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A year ago the Yankees started their rebuild with an unusual strategy. With only a few big league ready prospects of their own, the team went out and acquired out-of-favor young players with other organizations. The hope was they could buy low on talented players and unlock their potential. So far it’s worked with Didi Gregorius. He’s been pretty awesome as Derek Jeter‘s replacement.

The Yankees imported Nathan Eovaldi from the Marlins as part of this on-the-fly rebuild, and his first season in pinstripes was eventful. He struggled early in the season, dominated after picking up a splitter with an assist from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, then finished the season on the shelf with elbow inflammation. This season followed a similar script, albeit at the extremes.

The No. 3 Starter

In hindsight, Spring Training should have been a red flag. Eovaldi struck out ten and walked eight in 14.2 Grapefruit League innings during the spring — he had a 20/3 K/BB in 18.2 innings last spring — after missing time with a groin problem. The vast majority of Spring Training stats mean absolutely nothing. This year, Eovaldi’s inability to locate in March was a harbinger of things to come during the regular season.

The Yankees slotted Eovaldi in as their No. 3 starter to start the regular season because that’s the kind of production they hoped to receive. He had a 3.43 ERA (2.86 FIP) in his final 14 starts and 84 innings of the 2015 season, and the new splitter was a tangible reason for the improvement. The Yankees were hoping to get that guy full-time this season. That didn’t happen. Not even close.

Eovaldi allowed five runs in five innings to the Astros in his first start of the season, and also gave up two home runs. That was ominous. Eovaldi allowed ten home runs total last season. Right out of the gate he gave up two this year. Four runs in 6.2 innings against the Blue Jays followed seven days later, including two more home runs. That’s four home runs in his first 11.2 innings of the season. It took Eovaldi 28.2 innings to allow four homers last year.

Following those two tough starts to the season, Eovaldi did settle down and pitch well through the end of May. His best start of the season came on April 25th in Texas, when he allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings. Eovaldi lost the no-hit bid in the seventh inning.

Through ten starts and 60.2 innings, Eovaldi had a 3.71 ERA (3.56 FIP) with very good strikeout (22.9%), walk (6.0%), and ground ball (54.3%) numbers. Bet you don’t remember him being that good! It’s true though. It happened. For the first ten starts of the season Eovaldi was pitching like the No. 3 starter the Yankees hoped he would become.

Now, the bad news: those ten starts included seven home runs, which worked out to a 1.04 HR/9 (13.7 HR/FB%). That’s not Eovaldi. He had a 0.58 ERA (7.8 HR/FB%) last season and a 0.63 HR/9 (6.6 HR/9) the year before. Eovaldi came into the 2016 season with a career 0.63 HR/9 (7.1 HR/FB%) in 614.1 innings. That’s not a small sample. He’d displayed a legitimate skill for suppressing home runs. That skill disappeared in 2016.

The Well-Earned Demotion

Things went south for Eovaldi as soon as the calendar flipped to June. He allowed at least four runs in each of his next six starts, including at least five runs in five of those six starts. His pitching line in those six starts: 30.1 IP, 45 H, 31 R, 31 ER, 12 BB, 19 K, 12 HR. Ouch! That 3.71 ERA (3.56 FIP) on June 1st turned into a 5.54 ERA (5.11 FIP) on July 1st. It went downhill and fast.

At that point the Yankees did the only thing they could do: they moved Eovaldi to the bullpen. It had to be done. He went to the bullpen and Chad Green took his spot in the rotation. Eovaldi made three relief appearances prior to the All-Star break, the best of which came in Cleveland on the final day of the first half. He allowed just one hit in 4.1 scoreless innings in relief of an ineffective Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees insisted they still believed in Eovaldi as a starter, and they put their money were their mouth is in the second half. Green was sent to Triple-A and Eovaldi returned to the rotation after the All-Star break, and the early returns were promising. He allowed ten runs total in 25 innings in his first four starts back. Opponents hit .204/.267/.387 against him. That’ll play. Eovaldi looked good.

An Abrupt End to 2016

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Eovaldi’s first four starts back in the rotation were promising. He was missing bats again, and while the ball was still flying out of the park, Nate was doing enough of everything else to remain effective. It was a difficult season up to that point, and it looked like it might have a happy ending. Alas.

On August 10th at Fenway Park, Eovaldi retired all three batters he faced in the first inning on a ground ball and two fly balls. He did not pitch again the rest of the season. His velocity was down that inning — he averaged 93.7 mph with his fastball, well below his 98.0 mph season average — but otherwise there was no indication Eovaldi was hurt as he walked off the mound. It was a surprise when he wasn’t in the game to start the second inning.

The Yankees initially called the injury right elbow discomfort, and a battery of tests eventually revealed the full extent of the damage: a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Eovaldi told reporters the MRI showed the flexor tendon was torn right off the bone. Ouch. Soon thereafter he had surgery to repair all the damage, which involved his second career Tommy John surgery. Eovaldi is out until 2018.

So, after all of that, Eovaldi finished the regular season with a 4.76 ERA (4.98 FIP) in 124.2 innings spread across 21 starts and three relief appearances. His walk (7.6%) and ground ball (49.6%) rates were fine, though his strikeout rate (18.5%) was a tad low, plus there were all the homers (1.66 HR/9 and 18.7 HR/FB%). Gosh, the homers. So many homers. Twenty-three total. That’s after allowing 24 total from 2014-15.

Another New Pitch

Yet again, Eovaldi adopted a new pitch at midseason and it helped him have some success. Last year the split-finger fastball emerged and allowed Eovaldi to pitch effectively for two months or so. This year Eovaldi added a cutter at midseason, after being demoted to the bullpen. Check it out (via Brooks Baseball):

Nathan Eovaldi cutter

The splitter came out of nowhere last year and the cutter came out of nowhere this year. Did the cutter cause the elbow injury? It’s certainly possible, though I feel like we hear that about with every new pitch. Who knows? Something as severe as a flexor tendon tearing off the bone and a partially torn UCL was probably the result of wear and tear building up over a long period of time, not a guy throwing a handful of new pitches. (Eovaldi threw 148 cutters in 2016. That’s not that many.)

If nothing else, the splitter and cutter tell us Eovaldi is a tinkerer. He’s trying to get better and he takes to instruction. The splitter helped him have success for a while and the cutter kinda did too. Did they contribute to his elbow exploding? Like I said, it’s possible. I just don’t think we can say that with any certainty, especially since Eovaldi already had Tommy John surgery once before. At this point Eovaldi is a fastball/splitter/slider/cutter pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see if he comes back with that repertoire in 2018.

Outlook for 2017

Next season was supposed to be Eovaldi’s contract year. Instead, the injury ensures he will be non-tendered this offseason, when his stock is at an all-time low. MLBTR projects a $7.5M salary in 2017 and there’s just no way you can pay that to a guy who won’t pitch and will become a free agent after the season. It’s a total waste of money. The Yankees will cut Eovaldi loose at some point. Cruel game, this baseball.

The Yankees have not yet spoken to Eovaldi about their plans going forward, though that’ll happen soon. The club has a history of signing injured pitchers to two-year contracts (Jon Lieber, David Aardsma, Andrew Bailey, etc.) and nursing them back to health in year one with an eye on the reward in year two. Eovaldi seems like a candidate for such a deal. Kris Medlen and Mike Minor recently signed two-year contracts worth $8M or so under similar circumstances, so I guess that’s the starting point.

Either way, Eovaldi will not be a factor for the Yankees next season, even if they re-sign him. He’ll be rehabbing from a very serious injury — the second Tommy John surgery rehab takes much longer than the first — and getting him back at the start of 2018 would be the best case scenario. It might take even longer. That bites. A year ago the splitter had Eovaldi looking like a possible long-term rotation piece. Now his future in MLB is very much up in the air.

Thoughts ten days after the end of the regular season

Bird in the AzFL in 2014. (Presswire)
Bird in the AzFL in 2014. (Presswire)

It has now been ten days since the Yankees played their final regular season game. The postseason has kept me from missing the Yankees so far, though that’ll change eventually. Probably after the playoffs. Anyway, I have some thoughts about the 2016 season and the offseason ahead.

1. This is a very important Arizona Fall League season for the Yankees. Usually it’s just a bunch of guys getting extra at-bats. This year the Yankees have one rehabbing big leaguer (Greg Bird), one rehabbing prospect (James Kaprielian), and one reclamation project (Dillon Tate) in the desert. Bird will hopefully be the full-time first baseman next season, and he’s finally getting at-bats in the AzFL after missing the season due to shoulder surgery. Kaprielian, arguably the most talented pitcher in the system, will get a chance to make up for lost time after missing close to the entire season with an elbow problem. Tate’s stock took a hit this summer as his velocity and stuff wavered. The Yankees want to get all three back on track, especially Bird and Kaprielian. They’re important to the future of the franchise.

2. I’m usually paranoid about pitching depth. I’m always in favor of signing that one extra veteran to be the fifth starter and push the kids down to Triple-A. I’d rather have the arms and not need them then need them and not have them, you know? Despite that, I’m weirdly comfortable with the pitching depth the Yankees have at the moment. Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Luis Severino, and Bryan Mitchell all logged big league time this year, and then there’s Jordan Montgomery and presumably Chance Adams in Triple-A. Severino is the only one of those pitchers with a really high ceiling, but I think they’re all big leaguers, and I think the odds are pretty good we’ll see each of them next season. Definitely the first four, assuming Green is healthy. Is a rotation featuring four of those guys going to win a championship in 2017? Nah. But I like all the live arms that are big league ready or close to it. It’s been a while since the Yankees were this deep in potential starters.

3. Now, even with that pitching depth in mind, I do think the Yankees need to add a starter this offseason. A young controllable guy with high upside would be ideal. Someone like, say, Carlos Rodon or Jon Gray would be the dream scenario, just to throw some names out there. I’m not sure if that’ll happen though. Plan B might be some riskier pitchers either due to injury or poor performance. Rich Hill will be the big free agent name this offseason, and I suspect he’s going to get himself a nice contract. When I say riskier pitchers, I’m thinking more along the lines of Brett Anderson and Jaime Garcia (assuming his option is declined), or a trade for Tyson Ross. There’s a chance they’ll come reasonably cheap, and if healthy, they’ll be pretty good. If not, then the Yankees can turn it over to the kids. Maybe I’m being too optimistic about the young starters. I’m known to do that in the offseason. It just seems like there are zero sure things in free agency. Not even a reliable veteran innings guy to be your fourth starter. So if no trade can be worked out, then taking shots on risky pitchers with upside and using the kids as a backup plan seems like a fine idea.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

4. I’m not sure how this can be fixed aside from getting an entirely new offense, but the Yankees really need to improve their on-base ability going forward. They had a team .314 OBP (25th in MLB) and a 7.8% walk rate (19th). They also averaged only 3.83 pitches per plate appearance, which ranked 22nd in baseball. Their 77 games with no more than two walks were ninth most in baseball. That’s a problem. The best thing a hitter can do in any given plate appearance is not make an out, and the Yankees were among the worst teams at not making outs this past season. Furthermore, one of their best count-workers (Mark Teixeira) is retiring and two others (Brett Gardner and Brian McCann) might get traded. Hopefully Bird’s return and a full season of Aaron Judge will help correct this somewhat. With others like Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, this is just who they are. They’re going up there swinging. Want the Yankees to score more runs? Then adding some more on-base guys to the lineup would be a good start. Gardner and McCann were the only full season regulars with a .331+ OBP in 2016. That ain’t enough.

5. The Yankees re-signed pitching coach Larry Rothschild to a one-year contract last week, which means Rothschild, Joe Girardi, and Brian Cashman will be all be free agents next offseason. Probably the other coaches too, though I don’t know their contract statuses. Point is, things are set up well for the Yankees to wipe the slate clean after next season should ownership decide to go in that direction. No one has to be fired. They can all be let go. I don’t expect that to happen, at least not right now, but if the Yankees miss the postseason for the fourth time in five years, who knows. It would be easy to justify making sweeping changes. Either way, Cashman’s contract and Girardi’s contract are up after the season, and that’s going to be a pretty huge story, especially if the club doesn’t play in October again.

DotF: Greg Bird returns on first day of Arizona Fall League

The 2016 Arizona Fall League season started this afternoon, which means 1B Greg Bird returned to the field for the first time since having shoulder surgery in February. That’s grounds for a special edition of DotF, right? Right. In other AzFL news, RHP James Kaprielian will start for the Scottsdale Scorpions tomorrow. Hooray for that.

AzFL Scottsdale (9-6 win over Glendale)

  • DH Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — pretty standard Greg Bird game in his first day back
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-2, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 BB — nice AzFL debut for him
  • RHP Dillon Tate: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 17 of 30 pitches were strikes (57%) … Josh Norris says Tate sat 94-96 and topped out 97, and got swings and misses on both his slider and changeup, so that’s promising
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — 12 pitches, seven strikes

SS Gleyber Torres, SS Tyler Wade, RHP Josh Roeder, and Kaprielian are all at the AzFL as well, though they didn’t play today. Torres is going to see time at second and Wade is going to play some outfield.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

The ALCS is now set. The Blue Jays and Indians will meet for the AL pennant after sweeping the Rangers and Red Sox, respectively. Pretty easy to side with the Indians in that one, isn’t it? Go Fightin’ Millers! Anyway, here is today’s postseason schedule:

  • NLDS Game Four: Nationals at Dodgers (Ross vs. Kershaw), 5pm ET on FOX Sports 1 (Nats up 2-1)
  • NLDS Game Four: Cubs at Giants (Lackey vs. Moore), 8:30pm ET on FOX Sports 1 (Cubs up 2-1)

Wins today by the Nationals and Cubs would mean no baseball until Friday. No. Just, no. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. A pair of Game Fives on Thursday sounds great to me.

Here is tonight’s open thread. There’s some preseason NBA action on tonight in addition to the two postseason games. Talk about that stuff and more right here. Have at it.

Solano and Young elect free agency as Yankees continue 40-man roster purge

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Both outfielder Eric Young Jr. and infielder Donovan Solano have elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster, the Yankees announced in recent days. I didn’t realize Young was still under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017. No surprise they cut him loose though. He was never a long-term piece.

Young, 31, was acquired from the Brewers in a cash deal on August 31st to serve as the designated September pinch-runner. He appeared in six games with the Yankees, pinch-ran four times, and stole one base. On two occasions Young pinch-ran and the next hitter immediately hit a homer. He also played some outfield late in two blowouts.

The 28-year-old Solano went 5-for-22 (.227) with a home run in nine late-season games with the Yankees. He was only called up after Starlin Castro went down with a hamstring injury. Solano hit .319/.349/.436 with seven homers and an International League leading 163 hits with Triple-A Scranton this past season. Nice little minor league pickup, I’d say.

The Yankees have now dropped five players from the 40-man roster since the end of the regular season: Young, Solano, Anthony Swarzak, Blake Parker, and Kirby Yates. Parker and Yates were both claimed off waivers by the Angels. Swarzak elected free agency. J.R. Graham was also outrighted in late-September, so the Yankees have six open 40-man spots.

One of those spots went to Greg Bird; he was activated off the 60-day DL yesterday, the Yankees announced. That had to happen so he could play in the Arizona Fall League, which opens its season today. So the Yankees now have five open 40-man spots with six players on the 60-day DL: Dustin Ackley, Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, Conor Mullee, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow. They have to be activated the day after the end of the World Series.

Mark Teixeira and Billy Butler will become free agents after the postseason, giving the Yankees seven open spots. They’ll go to the six 60-day DL guys and Kyle Higashioka, who Brian Cashman confirmed will be added to the 40-man roster to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent. The Yankees will then have to open 40-man spots for Rule 5 Draft eligible prospects in November, most notably Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar, and Domingo Acevedo. Dietrich Enns and Tyler Webb will be Rule 5 Draft eligible as well.

Looking over the roster, other potential 40-man roster casualties include Mullee, James Pazos, Johnny Barbato, and Richard Bleier. Not getting a September call-up was probably bad news for Barbato. I also expect the Yankees to release Eovaldi and Ackley sooner rather than later given their injuries. No sense in waiting until the December 2nd non-tender deadline given the 40-man situation.

The Boringly Adequate Chase Headley [2016 Season Review]

Now that the 2016 season is complete and the dust has settled, it’s time to begin our annual season review series. This year was a complicated one. That’s for sure.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three years ago the Yankees came to a realization: Alex Rodriguez was no longer a capable third baseman. He had hip surgery during the 2012-13 offseason and was suspended for all of 2014, plus he was closing in on his 40th birthday, and guys who go through all of that don’t stay at a demanding infield position. It was time to find a new full-time third baseman.

In 2013 the Yankees turned to Kevin Youkilis, which was a disaster. In 2014 they went originally with Kelly Johnson, but Yangervis Solarte forced the issue in Spring Training. At midseason, the Yankees went for the more proven commodity and sent Solarte to the Padres for Chase Headley. Headley played well enough in the second half of the 2014 season to earn a new four-year, $52M contract as a free agent. The 2016 season was year two of four.

The Inexcusably Awful April

Last season was the worst full season of Headley’s career. He hit .259/.324/.369 (92 wRC+) with eleven homers in 156 games, plus he stopped played top notch defense. Headley went from being a big time asset in the field to being a big liability. Getting his defense back on track was priority No. 1 this year, perhaps so much so that it hurt his offense. Headley spent a lot of time working on his throwing in Spring Training.

In the first month of this season, Headley hit an unfathomable .150/.268/.150 (22 wRC+) in 71 plate appearances. Yeah, he drew plenty of walks (14.1%), but holy cow was he bad. No extra-base hits? No extra-base hits! In terms of OPS+, Headley had the second worst April by a regular player in franchise history. He had a 21 OPS+. Roger Peckinpaugh had 16 OPS+ in April 1918. Yeah.

Headley had two-hit games on April 12th and 19th. He had five hits the rest of the month. You can blame poor luck on balls in play (.191 BABIP) if you want, but a 17.0% soft contact rate and a 21.3% hard contact rate doesn’t exactly scream “this guy isn’t being rewarded.” Headley was awful in April. Inexcusably so, really. Ronald Torreyes took some at-bats away from him, though ultimately the Yankees needed to get Headley on track, so he remained in the lineup.

The Return to Normalcy

May 12th. That was the date of Headley’s first extra-base hit this season. It was team game No. 33 and his 103rd plate appearance. Headley’s first non-single was an opposite field home run, because of course it was. Ex-Yankee Ian Kennedy served it up. To the action footage:

“It’s been pretty crummy all year, to be honest,” said Headley following the game. “There was never a question in my mind that I was going to come out of it … I’m very confident in who I am as a player. But you have to produce. When you’re playing here and the team’s not playing well, you know you have to get it going. The confidence in the short term wasn’t as high as it usually is, so it was frustrating. But never have I thought, ‘I’m not going to hit anymore.'”

Naturally, Headley’s second extra-base hit came the next day. That was also a home run. Against Chris Sale of all people. Two days later Headley hit his first double of the season. The floodgates were open! By Headley standards, anyway. He got the monkey off his back — I can’t imagine the lack of extra base hits wasn’t weighing on his mind — and his performance started to improve into the warm summer months. It almost couldn’t get worse, really.

Early in the season Headley said he was rolling over on too many pitches and pulling too many grounders, which killed his production. He was doing it from both sides of the plate too. Once Headley was able to hit the ball in the air a little more often — and impact the baseball harder in general — his production began to tick up. Check out his rolling ground ball and hard contact rates:

Chase Headley GB rateThe hard contact rate climbed steadily and peaked north of 50% in July. That’s really good! Headley’s ground ball rate was up close to 60% at the start of the season before coming down to 40% or so at midseason. That’s much better. It makes sense for some hitters to hit the ball on the ground. Not Headley. He’s no speedster. He needs to elevate the ball to be productive and he wasn’t doing that in April.

From the start of May through the end of the season, Headley hit .265/.338/.418 (103 wRC+) with 18 doubles and 14 homers in 458 plate appearances and 121 games. That’s after putting up a 102 wRC+ from 2013-15. April 2016 was the outlier for Headley. Not May through early-October. He had a bad month — a terrible, awful, horrible, abysmal month — and went right back to being the guy he’s been the last few seasons.

All told, Headley hit .251/.329/.383 (92 wRC+) with 14 home runs in 2016. He also stole eight bases and always seemed to do so in big moments. Headley was a sneaky good base-stealer. The miserable April dragged his overall numbers down, but that miserable April happened, so we can’t ignore it. Headley was basically a league average hitter after April and there’s nothing exciting about that. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is.

The Defensive Rebound

For all the questions about Headley’s bat, there were never any concerns about his defense, at least not until last season. Last year Headley became alarmingly error prone, especially on throws. He was very tentative. There was no conviction behind any of his throws. It looked like he had the yips. No doubt about it. I mean:

Chase Headley error

That is not a man who is confident in his throwing ability. We saw an awful lot of that last season. Headley worked and worked and worked on it all season, and when Spring Training opened up, he worked and worked and worked on it some more. He and infield coach Joe Espada went out to the back fields every day to work on footwork and things like that.

To the surprise of many (I’m guessing), Headley did rebound defensively this past season. His throwing issues were gone and he appeared more confident in the field as the season progressed. Look at the last four seasons:

2013: +5 DRS and +7.0 UZR
2014: +13 DRS and +20.9 UZR
2015: -6 DRS and -3 UZR
2016: +7 DRS and +6.6 UZR

One of those things is not like the other. Headley’s been a really good defensive third baseman his entire career except for last season, when he lost his way for whatever reason. Players have bad years defensively. It’s just like offense. You can go into a defensive slump, and Headley did last season. He worked hard to get himself out of it and this year we saw a comfortably above-average gloveman at the hot corner, which is what we all expected when Headley first arrived in 2014.

The total package, meaning a bit below-average bat with an above-average glove, works out to an average-ish player. Headley ranked 15th among third basemen with +2.6 fWAR and 15th with +2.6 bWAR. Freaky. That’s pretty much exactly where he belongs. Middle of the pack. Headley’s a league average third baseman, someone who mans the position adequately and without any flash. Unexciting. Reliable. Safe. Boring. Those are good words to describe Headley. He leaves you wanting more but won’t sink your season either.

Outlook for 2017

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees put Headley on the market at the trade deadline — it seems they did that with all their veterans — but obviously no team bit. Or at least no one made an acceptable offer. The Yankees don’t have  a replacement everyday third baseman in house, so it would have been interesting to see what happened had Headley been dealt. Torreyes? Rob Refsnyder? Donovan Solano? Who knows.

Whenever a team puts a player on the trade market at the deadline, chances are they’ll do the same in the offseason. The free agent third base market is weak, especially after Martin Prado‘s extension with the Marlins, meaning teams that don’t want to pony up for Justin Turner will turn to the trade market. Of course, the Yankees themselves would have to figure out how to replace Headley should they trade him. They need competency at the hot corner too.

My guess right now is Headley remains with the Yankees next season. There’s two years and $26M left on his contract and that’s pretty much exactly what he’s worth. These days $13M a season doesn’t buy you much in free agency. The Yankees will listen to offers for Headley this winter, I’m sure of it, but his value to the team in the field is probably greater than whatever he’d fetch in a trade.