The two major moves Brian Cashman's made over the past month have worked out well for the Yankees so far. Since picking him up for Vidal Nuno (somehow) and plugging him into a rotation that was falling apart at the seams (or more accurately, ulnar collateral ligaments), the team has won all four of Brandon McCarthy's starts and the righty has an ERA of 2.55, a WHIP of 1.30 and a K:BB rate of 5.00. Meanwhile, since arriving in the Bronx on July 22nd, Chase Headley's been hitting like well...that guy who wore his uniform two years ago, with a triple-slash line of .333/.375/.500 in 32 plate appearances. These are small samples for sure, but the early returns are good.
Part of the reason McCarthy and Headley came so cheap, besides that they were struggling mightily for their previous teams, is that both will be free agents this November. With their early success as Yankees, and with the club's myriad uncertainties going forward at both of their positions, could Cashman and company make a preemptive strike to get either player locked up long-term?
Depending on medical prognoses for Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda, the Yankees could be in the market for as many as four starting pitchers this winter. With Hiroki Kuroda a candidate to retire and Ivan Nova unlikely for Opening Day, they'll probably need to add a minimum of two. McCarthy has a somewhat speckled past when it comes to injuries and effectiveness. He was very good for Oakland in 2011 and 2012, but never managed to make more than twenty-five starts in a season, then failed to impress in his season-and-a-half in Arizona, though his peripherals certainly out-shined his inflated ERA's. This year it's been more of the same, where McCarthy's over fifty percent ground ball rate, his 4.71 K:BB ratio and his sub-3.00 FIP are much more indicative of his true performance than his ugly 4.56 ERA and 6-10 won-loss record.
McCarthy is currently finishing off a two-year, $18 million contract. Matching that for 2015-2016 probably wouldn't be enough to get the 31-year-old to eschew another go at free agency, but adding a third year, or at least a third year vesting option at a slightly higher AAV might be. The Yankees would be taking a risk betting on McCarthy's ability to stay healthy and continue keeping the ball on the ground, but the reward could be a mid-rotation option for the next few years that costs less than the going market rate.
The Yankees' need when it comes to Headley is a little more muddled thanks to Alex Rodriguez's unpredictable saga. If A-Rod's active and ready to go for 2015, he may need to play third regularly, since Carlos Beltran is signed for two more years and, if this season is any indication, will require plenty of time at DH. Headley has played the outfield, but not since 2009 and he amassed a UZR/150 of -12.6 while there. Having Headley, Beltran and A-Rod form some sort of bizarre rotation at third, right and DH next year sounds alright in theory, but for a lot of reasons, it probably wouldn't work out.
But the Yankees have plodded into their last two seasons without a viable non-A-Rod plan at third and the results have been really, really bad. This time they may decide to hang on to Headley and let the potential problem of having too many starting-level players take care of itself, especially when two of them will turn 38 and 40 respectively next year. Headley's earning $10.53 million in 2014, so he'll look to match or top that - and get multiple years, even coming off his horrendous first half. As recently as 2013, he was worth 3.6 fWAR with a 113 wRC+ so he should be fairly confident in his ability to play well down the stretch and enter the off-season as a sought-after commodity, especially with only Pablo Sandoval to compete with in a weak third base class. Unless the Yankees come up with a four or five year eight-figure AAV deal, Headley's better off finding out what the open market has to offer.