Just one day after introducing Giancarlo Stanton at the Winter Meetings, the New York Yankees have kept busy in trading third baseman Chase Headley and pitcher Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres. Joel Sherman of The New York Post reported the trade, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic adding that New York would receive outfielder Jabari Blash in return.
The Yankees suddenly have two big holes to fill. On top of having a hole at second base following including Starlin Castro in the Stanton trade, there is now a hole at the hot corner with no clear internal candidate to take over. Thus, GM Brian Cashman may have more magic to work.
The trade itself
Losing Headley, despite his popularity with a small group of the fans, is not a devastating loss for the Yankees. He was inconsistent at the plate and a liability in the field, posting a defensive runs saved (Rdrs) of -7 last season before a trade for Todd Frazier moved him to first base and then to designated hitter once Greg Bird returned. Headley also hit just .262 in pinstripes for the past three years and had just 37 home runs with 174 RBI.
It’s also worth mentioning that the trade gives the Bronx Bombers $13m in salary relief and gives the 26-year-old Mitchell a clearer path to prominence after being a small fish in the big pond that is New York’s bullpen. In terms of the return, Blash is 28 years old and has 140 home runs in the minor leagues compared to slash line of .200/.323/.336 with eight home runs and 21 RBI in 99 major league games. Given New York’s surplus of outfielders, he is likely to either be released or moved in another deal on the horizon.
Who plays third base?
The Yankees’ clearest internal candidate to take over at third base is Miguel Andujar, who had three hits and four RBI in his major league debut last year before being sent right back to the minors before being part of the September call-ups. Andujar turns 23 in March and hit .315 with 16 home runs and 82 RBI across Double and Triple-A last season, but also made 17 errors at third base. That won’t fit in with the team’s analytical approach and certainly not with what new manager Aaron Boone (a former MLB third baseman himself) wants for the team.
This means the odds of keeping Todd Frazier immediately increase. He isn’t a defensive prize himself, but he made just seven errors while posting a positive Rdrs of four. Frazier also hit just .222 in pinstripes and just .213 on the year, but that was more because of bad luck than declining skills. He had 27 home runs on the year and was also responsible for the popular “Thumbs Down” fad that took the clubhouse by storm and caused team chemistry to be near-perfect, so he would be a prime candidate for the position if he can be re-signed for the right price.
Moreover, for what it’s worth, Frazier has publicly said he is interested in staying in the Bronx.
Unless Cashman has other plans. Maybe top prospect Gleyber Torres will take over at third base while Tyler Wade handles duties at second. Or maybe the genius GM has another plan entirely.
Either way, the Yankees are not in a position where they are absolutely sunk without a star third baseman and given how Cashman has earned the ultimate benefit of the doubt, whatever ideas he has for addressing this hole will be embraced.