Staying with Yanks, Headley sets sights on Series title
Veteran third baseman's 4-year contract reportedly worth $52 million
By Paul Casella
The Yankees further solidified their infield Monday, signing third baseman Chase Headley to a four-year deal worth a reported $52 million.
Headley acknowledged that he had at least one larger offer on the table from a team he chose not to identify, but said he was willing to leave some money on the table in order to return to the Yanks.
"It's hard to say that there was one factor," Headley said. "I really enjoyed my time in New York last year, but I think the first consideration in my decision was winning baseball games and hopefully wining a world championship. New York has done that in the past, and you know each and every year, that's the goal."
As for any position competition due to Alex Rodriguez's return, Headley said that he felt comfortable with his expected role based on the talks he had with Yankees brass during negotiations.
"That was something we discussed early on, but I viewed myself as a third baseman and that's where I feel like I help this team the best," Headley said. "Wherever I'm playing, I'm going to give everything I have, but that's a conversation we had and I think the vast majority of my time will be spent at third base."
Headley's signing not only fills the Yankees' void at third, but it also allows utility man Martin Prado to slide over and assume second-base duties. The Yankees acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius from the D-backs earlier this month and hope to have a healthy Mark Teixeira man first base in 2015.
The club also signed top-end reliever Andrew Miller this offseason and project to have one of the league's better bullpens next season. With Headley locked up through the 2018 season, the Yanks will now turn their sights toward shoring up the rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda.
"There's a lot of talent on this roster," said Headley, who has never qualified for the postseason over his eight-year career. "When you go around the diamond and you look at the players that we have, there's a tremendous background. There's guys that played well last year and will continue to play well for the foreseeable future."
Though the Yankees are in a mini drought of their own, having missed the postseason in back-to-back years, they did make the postseason in all but one year from 1995-2012.
"A two-year drought is a lot for New York," Headley said, "but coming from San Diego where we hadn't made the playoffs, I thought this was the place that was going to give me the best opportunity, year in and year out to have a chance to win a championship."
Headley, who turns 31 in May, got off to a slow start with the Padres last season before hitting his stride following a July 22 trade to the Yanks. Though he was reportedly pursued by at least the Giants, Marlins and Astros this offseason, he ultimately decided to return to the Bronx.
Headley racked up a .262/.371/.398 batting line over his 58 games with the Yankees after struggling to a .229/.296/.355 line in 77 games with the Padres. His .371 on-base percentage from July 22 onward was the fifth-best among third basemen during that span.
"Early in the season I had a number of issues that kind of plagued me," Headley said. "So there were some adjustments I made at the plate, but I think also just coming to New York and being part of a much better lineup and just being in a new situation kind of revitalized me."
Even with the second-half uptick, Headley's production still fell far short of the MVP-caliber numbers he put up in 2012. He put up a .286/.376/.498 batting line with 31 home runs, 115 RBIs and 17 stolen bases that season en route to finishing fifth in National League MVP voting.
Though neither he nor the Yankees expect a return quite to that level, a now healthy and "re-energized" Headley is eager to see what comes out of his first full season in the Bronx.
"I obviously haven't been able to replicate it, but once you do it once, you know it's in there," Headley said. "I've learned some things about my body and I've learned some things about my swing, so hopefully I'll continue to improve going forward, but having a solid lineup around you is going to help. That's the constant battle as a player -- trying to find the things that make you successful and constantly learn from those."
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.