Intrigued by the chance to reach the postseason for the first time in his career and effectively promised the everyday job at third base, Chase Headley said Monday that he spurned a more lucrative offer to re-sign with the Yankees.
Headley, 30, agreed to a four-year, $52-million contract that came with the understanding that he -- and not Alex Rodriguez -- will spend the majority of time at third base.
"That was something we discussed early on with the Yankees,'' Headley said. "But I view myself as a third baseman and that's where I feel like I help the team the best.''
The signing helped general manager Brian Cashman cross off a major item from his offseason to-do list. Fortifying the left side of the infield had been a high priority, and from the beginning, retaining Headley figured to be a large part of that plan.
The Yankees made no secret about seeking a reunion, though it took Headley's decision to leave money on the table to get it done. He refused to go into details about the other offer, though Yahoo Sports reported last week that another team was willing to extend a four-year contract worth $65 million.
"We left money on the table to be where I wanted to be, and that was New York,'' he said. "It was the better offer for myself and for my family.''
Headley played down the notion of any tension with Rodriguez, who with the signing has effectively been pushed toward a full-time role as a designated hitter.
"He's a tremendous player,'' Headley said. "I don't see there being any friction, especially coming from my side. But I think it's going to work out fine.''
The Yankees are banking on it as well. With Headley at third base and with Didi Gregorius and Brendan Ryan in a shortstop platoon to begin the season, the Yankees can use Martin Prado at second base. That alignment allows the Yankees to go with more experience, with prospects Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela pushing for jobs in spring training.
Headley immediately gave the Yankees a boost upon his arrival in a July 22 trade that sent Yangervis Solarte and Rafael De Paula to the Padres. In 58 games for the Yankees, he had six homers and 17 RBIs.
Said Headley, "Just coming to New York and being part of a much better lineup, just kind of being in a new situation, just really revitalized me and energized me.''
Among American League third basemen with at least 200 plate appearances, he ranked seventh in average (.262), second in on-base percentage (.371) and fifth in OPS (.768).
He also played strong defense at third base, a major consideration with so much uncertainty surrounding Rodriguez, who is coming off his season-long Biogenesis suspension.
Of course, Headley has questions of his own. His offensive production in San Diego had been hurt by a number of injuries since he finished fifth in the MVP voting in 2012 (a season in which he had 31 homers, 115 RBIs and an .875 OPS). Before arriving in the Bronx, he had an epidural injection to alleviate chronic back pain and was able to finish the season without any health issues.
Headley insisted that he was healthy throughout the second half, when he delivered the kind of performance the Yankees hope to see again as they work to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
"I've never been to the playoffs my entire career,'' said Headley, who will be in his ninth major-league season. "So a two-year drought is a lot in New York. But coming from San Diego, where we haven't made the playoffs, I thought this was the place that was going to give me the best opportunity year in and year out to have a chance to win a championship.''