Brian Cashman relieved to finish a "long journey" towards acquiring Chase Headley
Those are the words of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, speaking about the acquisition of third baseman Chase Headley from San Diego for infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor-league RHP Rafael De Paula on Tuesday afternoon.
Headley's name has been tied to the Yankees in trade rumors seemingly since he finished his breakout 2012 season, although Cashman couldn't quite remember if or when he had checked in on the now ex-Padre prior to this summer.
"Two years ago seems like a long time, so it's hard for me to remember," Cashman said, "and if I had a vacancy at third base, I'm sure I inquired about him at the time, but he was clearly an easier get this time than it was if and when that call was made."
This season, Headley is hitting just .229 with seven home runs and 32 RBI overall, but the switch-hitter has posted a .323 average and nine RBI so far in May - a line the GM attributes in part to an epidural injection that Headley, who has been playing through a herniated disc in his back this season, had to relieve the pain from that injury.
"We think he's an upgrade; he's definitely improved offensively since the epidural, and it seems like that has had a huge impact," Cashman said. "We noticed that his hit velocity has improved and his success at the plate has jumped. I know there's some mechanical stuff with his hand that I've seen in the papers, but I think that epidural really did the trick."
One other thing Cashman believes about that situation is that Headley's back won't be an injury concern going forward.
"We went through the Padres' medical logs, and I think his symptoms were minimal to some degree until he dove for a ball, which impacted him leading up to the epidural. There's some risks, but this appears to be something that is manageable - and has been managed really well - and he has responded well to the epidural, so our assessment of him from afar is that it's a low risk."
As for the player, Cashman says he doesn't envision Headley as a "big thumper," but as he takes over as the everyday third baseman, the GM hopes the 30-year-old's offensive impact will go beyond just his power totals.
"I think he can deliver the long ball and I think this ballpark is more conducive to that than where he came from, but I think he's a guy who can impact you offensively with his plate discipline and his batting average," he said. "Chase is a switch-hitter who can spray the ball all over the place, and that's what he's been doing; I don't see him as a big thumper, but he's an upgrade."
In playing every day, Headley will replace the tandem of Kelly Johnson and Solarte at the hot corner, and when it came to the latter, the GM praised the work that that 27-year-old rookie did for the Yankees over the first four months of the season.
"When we signed him, our assessment was that he would be a quality support player who could compete for a depth spot, and he emerged into something much more than that," Cashman said. "There has been a market correction on him to some degree, but he did a wonderful job and gave us everything he had. There was a lot of competition for him when we signed him, and I'm glad he picked us, because he really saved our bacon early on. He's a good under-control piece, and I wish him the best of luck."
Those who hope Headley is a longer-term solution at third, however, may be disappointed, as Cashman explicitly called Headley "a rental" for the next two months and said that's what was in his mind when he set up and made the acquisition.
"I can't predict 2015 and what our needs will or won't be, so right now I just frame it for what it is: he's got an expiring contract that runs through the end of the year, and so it's a rental in terms of the acquisition cost," Cashman said. "We've taken on some money and they've gotten some players they can hold on to as they move forward and try to support their future."
Rentals or not, Cashman finished by saying that the acquisitions of Headley and Brandon McCarthy (and Jeff Francis and David Huff, as well) show that the team is, as he put it last month, "ready to rock and roll" and still looking to do whatever they need to do to get to the postseason.
"We're going to keep mixing and matching and we're open to anything. All I can do is try to provide our manager and coaching staff the best 25 guys to go out there and compete every day, so we're going to keep sifting through it, and try to find ways to improve this club so we can get to where we need to be."