The team with all of the money is playing a little moneyball. The Yankees completed their second trade this month -- again for a player that advanced statistics predict to perform better in the second half than in the first. First they acquired Brandon McCarthy, betting on his FIP. Now, they've snagged Chase Headley conscious of his low BABIP.
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The Yankees traded journeyman-turned-regular Yangervis Solarte (0.9 fWAR, 100 wRC+, 0.2 UZR) and Rafael De Paula (3.34 FIP in High-A) to San Diego for Headley.
Chase Headley is not having a terrible season, but it's far from his best. He has contributed 1.6 fWAR, which is now good for the third-most on the Yankees' roster. His defense has been stellar, with a UZR of 8.6 at third base. That's mostly due to his range, which ranks second-best among qualified third basemen this season -- something that will be very valuable playing next to Derek Jeter whose range ranks 19th among shortstops this season. However, the offense (especially power) we witnessed in the 2012 season is gone.
Despite the slow start offensively, we can look at Headley's batted ball numbers to see there is room for improvement. A career .331 hitter on balls in play, this year he is finding base hits to the tune of a .285 BABIP. That's unusual, considering that line drives often turn into base hits, and his LD% is at a career high in 2014.
We can look deeper into his fly ball rate to get an idea of what happened to his power from that magical 2012 season. Basically, don't expect 30+ home runs again. His HR/FB rate in 2012 was an insane 21.4%. This year he has seven dingers in 77 games, which is more on pace with his career average. The switch-hitting Headley likes to pull the ball to left field, where 35 of his career 87 home runs have gone. That makes the short porch in Yankee Stadium extra attractive.
The Yankees desperately needed to improve their infield and this trade does that. Headley was available at a very attractive price, so Brian Cashman pulled the trigger. That being said, we shouldn't overlook the fact that his peripherals suggest that his offensive performance this season is likely to improve. In fact, ZIPS likes him to add an additional 1.3 fWAR and 108 wRC+ through the rest of the season. Like with Brandon McCarthy, the Yankees didn't only acquire a piece without relinquishing much, they got one that advanced stats seem to indicate could improve over the early-2014 returns.
While the Yankees' acquisition of Headley can be applauded for counting on his improvement using the sabermetric lens, we can't overlook the fact that they were still able to take advantage of a small market team looking to unload any of the remaining $3.97 million owed to him this year -- $1 million of which was included in the trade from San Diego.
For Padres fans, this move is disappointing. It is a reminder of what waiting too long to trade a valuable asset can cost. Headley produced a near-MVP season in 2012, when his value skyrocketed. Recently-fired Josh Byrnes sat on his third base asset until all of the value was depleted. Instead of getting a return of plus prospects had they traded him one or two seasons ago, knowing they would likely not re-sign him this upcoming offseason, they essentially get nothing in return, save some small salary relief.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.
Jeffrey Bellone is an editor and featured writer at Beyond The Box Score. He can also be found writing for the saber-slanted site Inside the 'Zona, and about the Mets at Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. He writes about New York sports at Over the Whitestone. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter @JeffreyBellone.