One week after the Yankees reportedly began talks with free agent third baseman Chase Headley, ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews wrote on Monday that the team is "making a strong push" to bring Headley back. The primary reason, Matthews reports, is the team's lack of faith in Alex Rodriguez to regularly play third during the course of the season.
Headley, who hit .262/.371/.398 in 58 games with the Yankees last season, rated as the top defensive third baseman in baseball in 2014, according to FanGraphs, while A-Rod hasn't played more than 100 games at the position since 2010. The Yankees' previously reported interest in re-signing Headley hinted at their concern about Rodriguez's defense (and perhaps his ability to stay healthy during a full season in the field), but ESPN New York's report confirms as much.
According to the article, the Yankees "are looking at Headley to start at third, play some DH and back up Mark Teixeira at first base," per Matthews' source, who was identified as a baseball exec not involved in the contract talks. The source cited A-Rod's knee and multiple hip operations, combined with his age (he's 39), as reasons for concern.
It's anyone's guess as to how well Rodriguez will perform after a full year off, but by limiting his time in the field, the Yankees could give him a chance to focus on getting his swing back and contributing on the offensive end. However, as I wrote last Tuesday, the Yankees have plenty of other aging hitters (namely Teixeira and Carlos Beltran) who will need to spend time at the DH spot as well. It could be imperative, then, that Rodriguez plays in the field at least a bit, whether it is at first or third base, in order to give his fellow veteran hitters a chance to rest their legs as well.
As we learned in October, Rodriguez already talked with the team about playing first base, a position he has never played in his major league career. Either way, it appears that manager Joe Girardi will have to be on his toes in terms of making constant lineup adjustments this season, whether or not the Yankees re-sign Headley.