Chase Headley will enter the 2018 season in the final year of his four-year, $52 million contract with the Yankees. The offseason before the concluding season of long-term contracts tends to be the time teams decide whether or not to keep or trade the player. The Yankees should consider keeping Headley in the fold in 2018.
Headley jumped out to a strong start, hitting .301 in April, but then turned in an incredibly awful performance in May (.165 average). However, the switch-hitter put it behind him and has been among the better and most consistent Yankees hitters since June 1 - .298 batting average, .384 OBP, and a .431 SLG with 18 doubles, five homers and 30 RBI in 293 plate appearances.
Headley strengthened the argument to keep him around in 2018 as he began to play full-time at first base after the Yankees acquired Todd Frazier and while the club waited for Greg Bird to come back from ankle surgery. Headley solidified the position from both sides of the ball, which was especially important from the offensive perspective as the position had been a black hole in the lineup much of the season. Headley's ability to shift from each of the corner positions provides the Yankees a roster edge for 2018.
First base backup plan
One of the disappointments for the Yankees this season was at first base. The team believed they had plenty of insurance behind Bird, with Tyler Austin and Chris Carter, but the former also got hurt and the latter was a disaster at the plate.
The Yankees believe that Bird is the future at the position, but it would behoove New York to have a better backup plan in place in 2018. Bird's poor performance before the injury (6-for-60) can be attributed to the ailment, but there is no assurance that Bird's production was completely about the bum ankle.
Third base platoon/fallback
The Yankees might be considering moving prospect Miguel Andujar, who will be playing in his age-23 season in 2018, up to the big leagues next season after two consecutive strong campaigns in the minors. Andujar's bat is considered big league ready, but his defense is not as strong. With Headley, a better defensive player than given credit for at times, the Yankees would also have someone to work with Andujar on a regular basis.
As with Bird, the Yankees would be wise to have someone with experience to complement the young Andujar. It is entirely possible that Andujar will endure growing pains along the way, making Headley a solid option to loosely platoon with the right-handed hitter to allow the youngster to fully acclimate to the majors.
As much as we hear it and might brush it off, having a balance of veterans on the roster does have some intrinsic benefits. Instead of trading Headley and filling the veteran bench role with an outsider, the Yankees would have a player who is fully immersed in the club's environment and one that does whatever is asked of him.
Combined with the clubhouse/dugout presence, Headley -- while not a prototypical corner infielder as far as offensive power is concerned -- should provide steady offense and defense and will not be hindered by moving from the corner positions and potentially inconsistent playing time. Headley would also be a strong player to turn to for extended injuries to Bird or Andujar if he is a starter, or in case either player severely falters.
As much as gaining a couple of prospects might benefit the Yankees, Headley seems to be set to provide more value as a member of the 2018 squad.