One of the most talked about issues around the 2014 trade deadline was how the Blue Jays didn't make any moves due to their feeling that none of the potential deals made sense 'baseball-wise'. Most fans knew that money played a bigger role than any of the front office was willing to admit, especially when many of these traded players ended up performing extremely well with their new teams. Two players that were acquired by the Yankees at the deadline in Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley ended up filling holes for New York that were left gaping for the Blue Jays, which irked more than a few people (including some Blue Jays players).
With Paul Beeston making it clear that money is still not an issue, we might as well give him the benefit of the doubt early in the offseason and assume that Alex Anthopoulos has all the resources he needs to upgrade the roster in the coming months. With that in mind, we can focus more on how much sense certain free agents make 'baseball-wise' and assume that cash is only playing a small role. The free agent under the microscope today is the former Yankees third baseman I already mentioned in 30-year-old Chase Headley. After the Padres got very little in return for the switch hitter, Headley went to New York and hit .262/.371/.398 with six home runs in 58 games making it hard to to believe that he wouldn't have made sense 'baseball-wise' on the Toronto Blue Jays.
Thankfully, Headley was just a rental for the Yankees and will hit the market as a free agent in the coming days looking to cash in on his consistent performance in the past five years. Over at FanGraphs the crowdsourcing projections assume he'll get somewhere in the neighbourhood of four years and $56 million this offseason, which could be on the lower end of the scale if we're being honest. On the surface, this doesn't exactly resemble a contract that the Blue Jays would ever agree to with a free agent, especially with their payroll already being pretty high. On the flip side, the rumours of Adam Lind and Mark Buehrle being on the trade block give the impression that the front office is shedding big salaries and will probably end up having some money to throw around this offseason. Whether they actually decide to use it is anybody's guess, but Anthopoulos is probably beginning to feel a little heat from upper management and may ditch his cautious style to save his job instead of facing a potential rebuild if things go poorly once again in 2015.
Assuming that the move fits on the financial side of the ledger, does Chase Headley make sense 'baseball-wise' in November of 2014 just three months after he apparently didn't make sense at the trade deadline? As we saw over the course of the past season the team is quite willing to play Brett Lawrie at second base which opens up some flexibility at the third base position, not to mention the fact that Lawrie is hurt most of the time anyway. Bringing a guy in like Headley, who has played at least 130 games in five of the last six seasons albeit with some troubling injuries, would potentially shore up the hot corner while also allowing Lawrie to fill the ever-present hole at second base as well as providing both players with rest at the DH position.
Headley's defence is phenomenal with a 48.1 UZR over his career at third base with 20.9 of that coming in this past season. While players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will receive larger paydays this offseason thanks to their more impressive offensive numbers, Headley likely will slide slightly under the radar and probably be underpaid thanks to the un-sexiness of defensive numbers in free agency. By no means is Headley an offensive black hole though, as he has the ability to consistently get on base despite a high strikeout rate, while also providing a fair amount of power to boot.
With all of the roster inflexibility issues that cropped up during the 2014 season it would certainly help having another switch hitter in the lineup who can hit both lefties and righties equally well, considering the team could be losing another one of those players in Melky Cabrera. With the turf potentially causing an issue for a number of the Blue Jays players, this added flexibility would allow Lawrie and Headley to see more DH time leading to an increased chance that they both remain on the field more often going forward.
The days before free agency kick off are always the most optimistic for baseball fans beside Spring Training because nothing seems impossible and dreaming of Chase Headley manning the hot corner at the Rogers Centre helps you forget about the fact that baseball is done for four months. Although the Blue Jays will likely be too cautious in the free agency market, there's a real opportunity to pay below fair-value for Headley thanks to the other third basemen in the free agent class. The team hasn't had consistent performance from the third base position since Scott Rolen and eventually they will need to address the fact that Brett Lawrie can't stay healthy for extended periods of time. The coming months will really put into view how much financial flexibility the front office actually has and whether all this talk of a payroll increase is true or not. In my eyes the signing of Chase Headley would make sense "baseball-wise" but I also thought the same thing three months ago and look how that worked out.