NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Chase Headley is staying with the Yankees, a sign New York is not counting on Alex Rodriguez to play third base regularly.
Headley and the Yankees have agreed on a $52 million, four-year contract.
CBSSports.com/WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman first reported that the deal was close, and WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reported earlier in the day that the third baseman was nearing a decision.
Coming off a season-long suspension for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez is owed $61 million over the final three seasons of his $275 million, 10-year deal. The agreement with Headley signals New York is planning to shift A-Rod to designated hitter, relegate him to a backup role or perhaps even seek trade offers.
“That was a discussion that we had early on,” Headley said during a conference call on Monday. “I feel like the best position on the field for me is third base. That’s where I offer the most to a club. So it was important to me. That was something that was resolved fairly quickly.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last month that “if I signed or traded for a third baseman, that would be my third baseman.”
Rodriguez has not played a full season since 2007 because of leg injuries, operations on both hips and the suspension. The three-time AL MVP turns 40 on July 27.
“I played against him earlier in my career and said hello to him, and he said hello to me,” Headley said. “I’m looking forward to the chance of playing with Alex, to be honest. He’s a tremendous player, and I don’t see there being any friction, especially coming from my side.”
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 that he used performance-enhancing substances from 2001-03 while with Texas, but he repeatedly denied using PEDs while playing for the Yankees. Then given a grant of immunity by federal prosecutors, Rodriguez told investigators he did use banned substances between late 2010 and October 2012 supplied by Anthony Bosch, according to Drug Enforcement Administration documents provided by the government to defense lawyers. Bosch owned the Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables, Florida.
The 30-year-old Headley was fifth in NL MVP voting in 2012 after hitting .286 with 31 homers and 115 RBIs for San Diego. He also won the Gold Glove at third base.
Headley slumped to a .250 average, 13 homers and 50 RBIs the following year and was batting .229 with seven homers and 32 RBIs when the Padres traded him to the Yankees on July 22 for rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula. Headley had been playing with a herniated disk in his back and started to hit better after an epidural injection June 20.
Headley batted .262 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 191 at-bats for New York. He arrived in the Yankee Stadium dugout in the second inning on the night of the trade following a flight from Chicago, and his 14th-inning single at the stroke of midnight gave the Yankees a 2-1 win over Texas. On Sept. 4, he followed Mark Teixeira’s tying home run in the ninth off Koji Uehara with a winning drive deep into the right-field bleachers for a 5-4 victory over Boston.
“I didn’t know how I’d like playing in New York, just with all the other things that come with playing in New York outside of being on the lines,” Headley said. “But once you get here and you realize you well you’re treated, how much fans care, how much the city cares, how well the Yankees family take care of you and your family, it was pretty obvious after a week of so that I was extremely lucky to get a chance to play in pinstripes.”
With Headley available to play third in A-Rod’s place, the Yankees would be able to use Martin Prado at second. New York acquired Didi Gregorius from Arizona this month, and he is expected to platoon at shortstop with Brendan Ryan.
Headley said he turned down a larger offer to re-sign with the Yankees.
“We left some money on the table to be where I wanted to be,” he said.
The veteran third baseman said he played with a herniated disk in his back last season, but started feeling better after receiving an epidural injection June 20.
“Obviously, there were some issues earlier in the season, but throughout the course of the season, the second half of the season at least, it didn’t give me any issues,” Headley said.
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