Chase Headley was born on May 8, 1984 in Fountain, Colorado. Headley was definitely not your typical jock in his youth, as he graduated as the valedictorian of his high school, Fountain-Fort Carson High School. He graduated in 2002 as an Academic All-American, a member of the Colorado Rockies Select Scout Team, and a played in the National Baseball Congress World Series. He went to the University of the Pacific for just one season in 2003 as their shortstop and then transferred to the University of Tennessee. That was when he made the transition to third base, but that's also when his injury problems began. He dealt with hamstring issues and had meniscus surgery in his sophomore year, but still managed to set a few school records during his tenure at the school. He was then drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2005 Amateur Draft.
As a professional, it didn't take long for Headley to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. By the following year he was already considered a top prospect in the Padres' organization and was considered the long-term option for their hole at third base. But, it wasn't all roses. Baseball Prospectus said the following in 2007, around the time he made his debut:
"He`s not a toolsy player at third, but he`s considered competent, and the organization loves his intelligent yet instinctual approach to the game. He`ll have to show considerably more power to pan out... he`s a top prospect in an organization without top prospects."
He wasn't flashy, but he was poised to become the face of a franchise for nearly seven years. Headley made his Major League debut on June 15, 2007 to replace Kevin Kouzmanoff and he never looked back. He did not get much playing time that year (only eight games), but he would slowly turn into their starting option. He played 91 games with the club in 2008 and put up a slash line of .269/.337/.420. Not bad at all. It's not superstar level, but certainly competent. And that's why 2012 tears into his narrative. In that year, he put up insane numbers. He hit .286/.376/.498 with 30 home runs and excellent defense. He was voted fifth for the NL MVP and was, at that time, considered one of the best third basemen in baseball.
But, is he? He then proceeded to have a year and a half of disappointing play while also tearing his meniscus in his left knee; he had arthroscopic surgery for that in the offseason. He's had back problems this year, up until recently when his recovery convinced Brian Cashman that his stroke was back. The Padres had literally a million chances (not really) to either sign Headley to a long-term extension or trade him and they did neither. His value is at its lowest point in his career, yet I do have confidence in his abilities. The Yankees finally got who they have been seeking for nearly three years, but will it work out?
I think so. Even though I do not think he will put up the production he did in 2012, I think underlying that is a decent true talent level. It's clear that injuries have also dealt a blow. But if he is even half the player that we all saw in 2012, then he would be the best third baseman the Yankees have had since Alex Rodriguez in 2011. Most projection systems have him hitting at around a .750 OPS, which would instantly make him one of the better hitters on the team. Brian Cashman is betting on positive regression, and I think he found his man. Chase Headley is a proven, Major League third baseman with a successful track record, but unfortunately he's had recent struggles. Those struggles may have come at an opportune time, a perfect opportunity for him to be snatched at the right price. If he performs, it'd be one of the better trades that Cashman has made. If you're going to bet on someone, the decently young and proven Headley is a good bet to make.