UPDATE: Paul Hoynes reports that while the Indians made a couple calls about Headley, his price tag will be too high, and they will not be pursuing him.
The Indians are reportedly interested in free agent third baseman Chase Headley. (This report comes via Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.) The source cannot confirm that the Indians have actually made an offer, but conversations have been had internally, and phone calls have been made. (...or texts, or FaceTime , or something)
The Indians were also interested in Headley last offseason, when he was reportedly on the trade block. Come to think of it, I feel like they've been interested in him since before then. I think they may have kicked the tires on a 14-year-old Headley before instead acquiring Travis Fryman.
There are (at least) four questions to be addressed in the face of these rumors:
1) How good is Headley?
Headley had a breakout season with the Padres in 2012, when he posted a 145 wRC+ (his .286/.376/.498 line while playing his home games at Petco Field was very impressive) while playing strong defense at third base. In the two years since then, his defense has gotten perhaps even better, but his offense has fallen back off. He was still an above average hitter in 2013 and 2014 though, and his numbers (even park adjusted) showed a nice bounce after he was traded to the Yankees in July. Maybe he was ready for a change of scenery (or maybe 224 PA is not a large enough sample to draw many conclusions from).
In 2012 he was a 6.5 to 7 WAR player, while in the last two years he's been a 3.5 to 4 WAR player, still very good. Headley is 30 years old.
2) What would it cost to sign Headley?
Based on similar players from previous years, and guesses I've read at various spot on the internet in the last week or so, I'm guessing he gets 3 or 4 years at $12-14 million a year, something like 3/$40 or 4/$50.
3) Can the Indians afford a contract like that?
I think the Indians have $12-14 to add for 2015, but no more than that, so signing Headley would mean no other moves unless they're able to shed some other salary. The bigger issue is that with raises due to a number of players already on the roster (most through arbitration), there's almost no money to spend for 2016 unless ownership is willing to increase the payroll beyond what we've seen in the last decade (even accounting for inflation).
4) What about Lonnie Chisenall?
There's some chance Chisenhall could be converted into a corner outfielder. His bat was much better than David Murphy or Ryan Raburn's this year, so he'd seem to be an upgrade there. He could also potentially spend time at DH. Another possibility would be to trade Chisenhall this offseason. I don't have a great sense of what his value would be. His overall offensive line was strong, and his defense seemed to improve as the year went on, but his offense was way down in the second half and his overall defense was poor. I suppose there are probably some teams that would see him as a valuable commodity, while others have no interest.
I like Headley, and I think he'll continue to be an above average third baseman for another two or three years, which would make him worth the kind of contract he's likely to get. I'm not crazy about the Indians acquiring him though, because it would seem to be the only significant move they'd make in the next 18 months, and I'm not sold on him being a big enough upgrade to commit to that.