29 Oct New York Yankees 2018 Third Base Options: Headley Plus
By: Chris Northrop
There may be no place like home, but third base is where all the action is this offseason as the Yankees have many options to fill the hot corner vacated by free agent Todd Frazier, who more than ably held down the position in the second half of the season and became a fan favorite while doing it.
Todd Frazier, 31, has been called a good clubhouse guy, a fan favorite and his enthusiasm and passion for the game were on display throughout his playing time in New York. He’s a free agent who has publicly said he wants to be a New York Yankee. Frazier hit .213 with 27 homers and 83 RBIs in 147 games combined between the White Sox and the Yankees. In 66 games with the Yankees, he batted .222 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs. He played a good third base and has been a better defender in recent years than Chase Headley, whom he had displaced. However, Frazier’s career Fielding Percentage and Headley’s career Fielding Percentage are only .002 percentage points apart at .965 for Frazier and .963 for Headley. Moreover, Frazier’s batting average has steadily declined from 2014 when he hit .273 to his current low of .213.
While Frazier’s batting average has declined, Chase Headley’s has gone steadily up as he had his most successful season at the plate since becoming a Yankee. The switch hitter batted .273/.352/.406 on the season surpassing his career numbers. On defense, he not only played a credible third base, but also for the first time played first base and very ably and certainly did not embarrass himself in the attempt. With Greg Bird firmly in place at first base it would seem, is it time for Headley to hold down third base again while waiting for the next wave of young talent to arrive?
It is easy to make a case for having Headley, entering his 34th year, as the placeholder for Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar until mid-season when one or both will be ready to see big league action. With Headley’s palatable defense and resurgent offense (he hit .279/.374/.405 against right handers), he is a fairly easy player to platoon with or to move to DH when third base becomes occupied by one of the younger players. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are lined up for full and complete spring training and who knows, maybe the Yankees decide to go young, maybe one of them wins the job away from Headley altogether.
The free agent and trade market both feature big name third basemen, such as Manny Machado (free agent after 18), Josh Donaldson (free agent after 18), Adrian Beltre and Matt Carpenter, just to name a few. However, the Yankees’ commitment to getting under the luxury tax line and to keeping the payroll at $197 MM, creates some real restraints in acquiring talent from outside the organization. It seems possible that the Yankees might consider acquiring a player such as Logan Forsythe, Yangervis Solarte (the player dealt to acquire Headley), Martin Prado or other to platoon with Headley against left-handers.
A Headley or a Headley platoon manning first base, holding down the position until one of the young prospects arrives to take over the position seems the most likely solution to figuring out who’s on third for the Yankees on 2018.