With the divisional round done and the league championship series starting later this week, the time draws closer to when the Yankees can be active in the baseball world again. Dom started laying out their list of offseason needs yesterday in preparation for the start of hot stove season, and 2 guys who will be very important in determining how those needs are addressed are Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley. The trade deadline pickups were among the best players on the team post-acquisition. Their performances in New York set them both up to earn pretty nice free agent paydays, and given that aforementioned list of needs, there's a fair-to-good chance those paydays comes from the Steinbrenner checkbook.
The local media has already started covering these upcoming free agent cases and the stance coming from both Headley and McCarthy is that they would want to return to the Yankees next season. Headley wasn't as forthcoming in his declaration. A lot of what he said was typical free agent speak, although he did address the situation with A-Rod and the uncertainty that comes with it as an opportunity for him to stay in New York and contribute. McCarthy, on the other hand, came across like he was campaigning to return when he talked to Brendan Kuty 2 weeks ago after his last start. Here's the money quote:
"I'd prefer to be anywhere where I'm wanted but this would be a hard place to turn down. It's been a great time here. And tonight not included, I feel like I've done well. I feel like gotten along with a lot of people. The way the organization goes about its business makes perfect sense to me. It'd be hard to find a better fit than here."
I know it's smart business for players to speak positively about all teams before they hit the open market, especially the one they were most recently playing for. In the same way that managers and GMs aren't going to come out and trash their players to the media when they aren't playing well, players aren't going to do anything to eliminate a potential suitor or poison the perception teams have of them when 7, 8, and 9 figures are on the line. At the same time, I don't think this statement from McCarthy should be considered completely meaningless. If anything, I think the Yankees should take this as a positive sign and a competitive advantage over any other teams that could have interest in McCarthy.
Money talks when it comes to free agency. That's a fact and not one I'm trying to argue against. But there's something to be said for a player feeling comfortable in an environment and knowing he wants to stay there. Just ask Adrian Gonzalez when he was with the Red Sox or Prince Fielder when he signed with the Tigers if they felt like that and how that worked out for them. McCarthy came to the Yankees and pitched as well or better than he has at any point in his career. He knows that and seems like the type of guy who can handle the New York scene, and he has already come out and said he would prefer to come back. Those are good things to know about a guy when he's a potential fit for an area of need.
Neither Headley nor McCarthy is qualifying offer-eligible, which is another plus for the Yankees if they are interested in bringing either of them back. There's little reason to expect them to not be, and so along with that lack of draft pick compensation, the Yankees should take these public statements of interest in returning and use them to their advantage when contract talks start. Neither player will come cheap and the Yankees certainly shouldn't try to lowball them, but money is never the problem in Yankeeland. Performance and ability to handle the environment is, and both Headley and McCarthy have passed those tests.