With the news that Evan Longoria suffered a setback while rehabbing his hamstring injury, the Rays may need more than just a stopgap at third base. While they have attempted to cobble together at least a portion of his production since he got injured, Longoria’s presence in the middle of the lineup is definitely missed.
Since May 1st, when the injury occurred, the Rays have used six different players at third base over the course of a game. The Rays have also been 24-26 without Longoria in the lineup. Needless to say, the Rays can use an upgrade and consistency at a vital position.
Now that Kevin Youkilis has been traded, perhaps the most attractive third baseman on the trade market is Chase Headley. Headley is only 28 years old, and would not be eligible for free agency until 2015. He also has experience playing other positions, as he had appeared in 196 games in left field.
Aside from position flexibility and team control, Headley also has other features that could make him attractive to the Rays. Headley is a solid defensive player at third base, being amongst the league leaders in range factor, putouts, assists, and total zone runs in both 2010 and 2012. He has also been a solid offensive player, and has good speed, with 53 career stolen bases, while having been caught only 14 times. A move to acquire Headley could also allow Longoria to DH occasionally upon his return, to further insure that his hamstring is ready.
The biggest knock on Headley is his lack of power for a corner infielder. Yet, he has hit 28 or more doubles in each of the past three seasons, including a 2011 season that was shortened due to injury. Headley also appears to be a victim of playing half his games at Petco Park, as 26 of his 43 career home runs have come on the road. Away from San Diego, he is a .299/.365/.443 batter, while he has a career line of 235/.326/.341 at home. Removed from the cavernous ballpark that the Padres play in, Headley may have enough power to hit around 20 home runs.
A trade for Headley might involve moving a solid prospect or group of prospects, yet he is not likely to command one of the top prospects in an organization. In fact, he may even be a bit undervalued due to where he plays, since playing in San Diego drives his overall statistics down.
Quite simply, Chase Headley would make sense for the Rays should they decide to look for an upgrade over the Will Rhymes – Sean Rodriguez – Jeff Keppinger combo platter at third base. He could help solidify the lineup, provide much needed offense, and help improve what has been a poor defensive ballclub.