Recent Cleveland Indians rumors suggest the Tribe has interest in acquiring free agent third baseman Chase Headley, who last played for the New York Yankees.
But how would the cash strapped Indians go about securing a player, who could be in the market for a four-year, $60 million deal?
The Indians have about $10-16 million to spend (depending on how things shakeout this winter) to spend this offseason if the franchise wants to match last year’s Opending Day payroll of $84.4 million.
Judging by the franchise’s history of fiscal conservatism, the Indians probably won’t break their budget to sign Headley, which means general manager Chris Antonetti will have to get creative.
Aug 28, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley (12) makes a throw against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Which brings the spotlight to Lonnie Chisenhall. We all know the Chiz Kid’s MO by now. He was scorching hot for the first half of the 2014 campaign, but cooled off faster than water in the arctic air following the All-Star break. He was hitting .328 at the Mid-Summer Classic and .218 after. When the book closed on Chisenhall’s season, his stat line read: .280 (.770 OPS) with 13 HR and 59 RBIs.
The Indians don’t know if Chisenhall can be there everyday third baseman. Besides a questionable bat, his defense can also be suspect, although it has improved.
After arbitration, Chisenhall could be making somewhere around $2.2 million next year, and his ceiling is not yet known, so he would interest other teams.
Perhaps Antonetti could use Chisenhall as bait to lure a tam into taking Nick Swisher‘s massive contract. Swisher is due $30 million over the next two seasons, and it’s been reported the Indians are looking for a trade partner…presumably another fat, unproductive contract the franchise believes it might be to squeeze some life from.
But rather than trade one bad contract for another, the Tribe could package a deal to send both Chiz and Swish out of town for a player of some quality, who doesn’t make that much. In theory, that would clear up some room for Headley.
Headley will be in demand, especially because of the deal Pablo Sandoval just signed with Boston. Panda’s old team, the Giants, will almost certainly be interested in Headley, while his current team, has to make a decision on whether to bring him back, or rely on a player trending the wrong pay the four seasons and didn’t take an at-bat last year (Alex Rodriguez).
If the Tribe signs Headley, it will be for his defense. Don’t be fooled by 2012–his one prominent season at the plate– when he belted 31 homers and finished fifth in the NL MVP voting. That season appears to be an anomaly on the back of Headley’s baseball card.
Jul 11, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) celebrates after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
It’s for this reason it won’t be a stunner to see the Indians drop out of the bidding early, because the Tribe already has a stud defensive prospect named Giovanny Urshela. He’s only 23, and has risen to the top of organization’s prospects ranks because he does have some pop (18 HR and 84 RBIs between Class AA and Class AA in 2014), while possessing stellar glove. Urshela ended his play in the Venezuelan Winter League early this fall after spraining a ligament in his knee.
Headley’s defense would instantly make the Indians a better team, because catching the ball proved very problematic in 2014, as Fan Graphs rated the Tribe second-to-last in its team defensive ratings.
But will the Indians be willing to pay? If so, Antonetti must play the roll of magician.
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