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July 23, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Headley Chased

by Sam Miller, Mike Gianella and Jeff Moore

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Reportedly traded SS-S Yangervis Solarte and RHP Rafael De Paula to the San Diego Padres for 3B-S Chase Headley and $1 million (7/22)

In the annals of Chase Headley rumors (see below), there are a lot of mentions, going back for years, of the Yankees. Mostly, it was writers speculating that the Yankees should be interested but noting that they hadn’t actually done anything to make a trade happen. Most recently, in January: “The team is not currently trying to work out a deal to bring Chase Headley over from the Padres.” But, every writer who ever posited a trade link between the Yankees and Headley screamed into his pillow, it would make so much sense! Alex Rodriguez was out, and nothing notable was in.

Instead the Yankees went with freely available options. If there was always something a little bit cocky about expecting Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson and Solarte to cover two infield positions on a $200 million team, the Yankees did at least have strength in numbers; if just two of the three could handle the task, the club would be fine. Give the front office credit, six months later, for reassessing. With Headley now a lock for third base (assuming health), then Johnson and Roberts can form a strange sort of platoon. The switch-hitting Roberts, traditionally, has been better from the left side. The lefty-hitting Johnson, meanwhile, is one of the small handful of left-handed hitters in history with a reverse platoon split. I doubt it’ll happen, but we might get to see the ultrarare reverse-platoon in action.

Headley’s outlook is a bit more promising than it was a month ago. Since July 1st, he has put up a funny little .323/.323/.462 line that wouldn’t mean much except that roughly half of the balls he has put in play during that time have been line drives. That slash line includes seven lineouts in 15 games. Mike Napoli, by comparison, has hit six lineouts all year.

That spray of red reduces, if doesn’t quell, concerns about a player who has been playing with a herniated disk since late June, when he received a cortisone shot. PECOTA doesn’t see this as a division-shaking move, putting the upgrade from Solarte to Headley at about a half a win over the rest of the season, but it’s easy enough to dream on a healthy Chase Headley rediscovering his stroke, finding redemption in the Yankees’ right-field dimensions (the bulk of his massive career home/road splits have come from the left side, where his OPS is 135 points higher on the road), and adding an All-Star bat to middle of the order. Try finding another plan so plausible at a price less than this. —Sam Miller

Fantasy Impact

Chase Headley

Headley is in the middle of the worst year in his career with the bat, but instantly gets a significant boost moving from Petco to Yankee Stadium. Ignore this year’s unfavorable road/home splits and look instead at Headley’s career. From 2011-2013, Headley put up a .258/.354/.406 slash line at home versus a .290/.377/.471 on the road. He is not going to duplicate his amazing 2012 power output, but it would not surprise to see a home run revival with his new team. The improved surrounding cast will also lead to more runs/RBI opportunities down the stretch. Headley is worth considering again in shallow mixed leagues. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him finish as a Top 30 corner infielder the rest of the way.

Kelly Johnson

Brian Roberts

It’s possible that Johnson plays more second base/grabs more playing in favor of Brian Roberts, but there is also the possibility that Johnson and Roberts split playing time at second. Both of them are hard to recommend outside of very deep mixed leagues at the moment, with Roberts probably an AL-only at this point. —Mike Gianella

SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Reportedly traded 3B-S Chase Headley and $1 million to New York Yankees for SS-S Yangervis Solarte and RHP Rafael De Paula (7/22)

Solon, an Athenian statesman who lived 600 years before Christ was born, described the prototypical human life in 10 stages, from losing one’s milk teeth all the way to “a not untimely death.” Chase Headley has lived, perhaps, the prototypical life of a modern ballplayer, in which each stage is processed not as a series of accomplishments but as a series of trade rumors. Borrowing from Solon’s Decad, the life of a Headley—or, perhaps more accurately, the life of our Chase Headley attention span.

0-7: The boy, still an infant, grows and loses his milk teeth.

Headley’s first appearance on MLB Trade Rumors comes with his callup, which was not merely a callup but, speculation went, a showcase for a future trade: “If the Padres are to get involved for a big-name slugger like Jermaine Dye or Adam Dunn, Headley’s name will come up.” This is all speculation; fun and games for us villagers.

7-14: A child: signs of maturity appear; he arrives at puberty.

Having debuted, Headley’s next appearance in the rumor cycle comes five months later, when not just speculation but real names are thrown around—though not, we learned, names enticing enough to consummate a deal. The Red Sox offered Coco Crisp for him, and the Padres decline. The Pirates offer Xavier Nady and Nate McLouth, and the Padres decline. He is the hot young thing.

14-21: His limbs develop; a beard grows upon his chin.

As his true rookie season begins, and he edges toward his physical peak years, Headley is no just longer something coveted by other teams, but a piece that the Padres begin to think about cashing in. They reportedly “dangle” him for Yuniesky Betancourt.

21-28: He arrives at his full strength, and proves his manly valor.

After a breakout year in 2012, he is one of the most desirable piece on the trade market, and one of the most intriguing names for gossiphounds. He is now the sort of player who he would have been traded for years earlier. The Padres were “asking for the moon” even in the months before his superstardom, and over the next year he would be linked to a dozen suitors: Rockies, Cubs, Tigers, Pirates, Dodgers, Phillies, Indians, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Blue Jays, A’s were all named alongside him. He carried “the highest market price” of anybody on the trade market, according to one report; the Padres wanted a Latos-like return (two top-50 prospects, and a major-league starter) for him, said another. They were “down the road” with several teams; a trade for Justin Upton (with other players involved) was discussed.

He was not traded.

28-35: He begins to think of a wife, children and his future posterity

A trade having not occurred, we turn our attention to an extension. What is an appropriate extension? Should he sign an extension? Should the Padres sign him to an extension? Who are players like him who have signed extensions? What would signing an extension mean for his trade value? What would signing an extension mean for other players who are not Chase Headley?

Extension talks do not appear to progress very far. Talk of extensions continues.

35-42: His mind is fit for all things and he no longer cares for trivialities

An extension having not occurred, his free agency approaches. His impending trade becomes more likely as the expected return tightens up. Or perhaps it becomes less likely even as his future with his own club fogs. May 2013: “Chase Headley is probably going to be traded by the July 31st deadline.” July 2013: “The Padres are willing to listen on any of their players, but Headley appears to be on the edge of untouchable.” October 2013: “While they will still listen to offer on their switch-hitting third baseman, a trade doesn't seem likely.” He is a man with perhaps half his life ahead of him, but perhaps 1/100th of the possibilities he had as a lad.

42-49, 49-56: His understanding and speech are at their zenith

An extension still unlikely, the return in a trade less sexy, Headley becomes to us primarily a change-of-scenery candidate. Headley’s understanding and speech:

Third baseman Chase Headley says he doesn’t feel the Padres are the reason he’s inconsistent, and doesn’t think a change of scenery will help him, Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes.

56-63: Some powers remain but eloquence and wisdom diminish

No longer able to do the things he could as a young man, but still too young to retire. The asking price is smaller; the answer more curt: “Chicago GM Rick Hahn is loath to meet counterpart Josh Byrnes' request of including Jose Quintana as part of the package.” Even a qualifying offer begins to look risky, perhaps too risky, as Headley is playing hurt and scraping replacement level. Ultimately, the return is far less. The man who fought in wars, who led departments, who raised children and who built towers now finds quiet dignity in a beer after work and evenings spent building a ship in a bottle.

63-70: At 70, he makes preparations for a not untimely death

Hmm.

And so, if you’re the Padres, how do you feel about this? Obviously, it’s tempting to imagine the alternate paths one might have taken, the Justin Upton and the… well, and the Yuniesky Betancourt, I guess. The return they get today is exceptionally unfun. This is like the package they got for Ernesto Frieri, a friggin (at the time) middle reliever: Cost-controlled utility infielder with a tense rivalry with replacement level; and live arm, of the sort that any decent system generates as easily as 2 percent interest on a savings account. (Arguably the arm was liver and the utility infielder more utile in the Frieri deal, but that’s not worth dwelling on.)

But players don’t exist solely to be traded. We treat them that way—before Headley had played a game, his existence had been boiled down to “trade bait.” But players exist to exist, as trade pieces but sometimes as lifelong Padres and sometimes as players who spend six years with the club and then move on. It’s no shame to have not traded Headley when he was great; it’s no shame on Headley’s part, to have not signed an extension when he could have. It’s just a bitter outcome for everybody that he went from being real good to getting hurt and sucking real bad. —Sam Miller

***

Tall, lithe and lean, De Paula has the ideal pitching prospect's frame—not so skinny that he can't control his movements but still capable of adding weight as he develops. He stays tall in his delivery and uses his size—which is listed at 6-foot-2 but looks taller—to generate a good downward plane. His loose arm action is long on the back end and results in a wide three-quarters arm angle.

That's the good news.

Despite that angle, De Paula gets little movement on his fastball, which comes in at 91-92 as a starter. He hit 94 a few times when he reached back with two strikes, but generally his delivery was very low-effort. Unfortunately, he doesn't repeat it very well. His arm often drags behind his body and then is forced to catch up after his plant foot hits, causing him to miss frequently to the glove side. Simply put, he's going to hit a lot of left-handed batters.

His primary secondary outing is a slider that comes in between 79-81 mph. It's not a big breaker, with 10-to-4 action and moderate break. It's a sweeping pitch that shows potential and generates swings and misses from right-handers on the rare occasion when he throws it for strikes. He's inconsistent with the pitch, only throwing about one out of every three or four for strikes. The good ones are good, but until he throws enough of them, it will remain a below-average pitch with above-average potential.

His third offering is a below-average changeup which comes in too firm at 84-85 mph. It has some fade and is thrown with the same arm action as his other pitches, but he has no control over the pitch, surrounding the strike zone in all quadrants without hitting it with any consistency.

De Paula has two potentially above-average pitches, which puts him in a reliever profile. His fastball and slider need to make marked improvements in their command, but he throws enough good ones to dream on. The 23-year-old could move much more quickly if he shifts to a relief role, and while the jump in velocity after that shift is far from the given many assume it to be, the low-effort De Paula looks like the kind of pitcher who could add a few ticks of velocity in shorter stints with more effort in each pitch.

The one thing going for De Paula has been his ability to miss bats despite his command issues. That bodes well for his potential as a reliever down the road. There's still work to do, but the Padres have acquired a live arm who could potentially fill a middle relief role for them within a year or two. —Jeff Moore

Fantasy Impact

Yangervis Solarte

First, the good news: it appears that Solarte will get to keep his job, which is something that wasn’t certain if he had stayed with the Yankees. That’s it for the good news. The rest of the picture isn’t as rosy. The raw numbers look nice for Solarte, but most of his production came during his first time through the league in April. Since then, he has put up a dreadful .233/.307/.347 line. He does have five home runs in 200 plate appearances from May 1st forward, but he is moving into an awful park for power hitters. Solarte might be worth playing on the road in deeper mixed formats, but he isn’t worth the stash if you have limited roster spots.

Jace Peterson

Peterson has done little this year, but he might grab a few at-bats at the hot corner with Headley gone. He might be good for an additional handful of stolen bases going forward, making him a backend option in NL-only. —Mike Gianella

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here
Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

Related Content:  New York Yankees,  San Diego Padres

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