NEW YORK -- Standing within striking distance in the American League East, the Yankees sent a clear message on Tuesday that they intend to push for the postseason, acquiring third baseman Chase Headley in a trade with the Padres.
New York sent infielder Yangervis Solarte and right-handed pitching prospect Rafael De Paula to San Diego in the deal. The Yankees also received $1 million to offset the remaining $4.16 million of Headley's salary for 2014, according to a source.
Rafael De Paula, RHP: De Paula signed with the Yankees in November 2010, but he didn't get cleared to play for more than a year because of discrepancies with his identity and birthday during the signing process. Once he did get on the field, however, he blew hitters away in the low Minors with a fastball that sits in the mid 90s. But as he has advanced, De Paula's struggles with control and a lack of a quality offspeed offering have become more apparent. He has compiled a 4.83 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP over the past two seasons at Class A Advanced Tampa, despite striking out 154 batters in 138 innings. If DePaula isn't able to make the necessary adjustments, he'll likely end up as a power reliever in the big leagues.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he had been negotiating with the Padres about Headley for the better part of three weeks, and that the 30-year-old switch-hitter should give the club an immediate boost when he slots in as the everyday third baseman.
"I think he's a professional hitter and a switch-hitter that can spray it all over the place, and that's what he's been doing," Cashman said. "I don't think we're getting a big thumper, but I do think we're getting an upgrade and a professional at-bat."
Headley entered Tuesday batting .229 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 77 games with San Diego, but his power was sapped by a herniated disk early in the season. Headley's performance had improved since receiving an epidural injection in late June; since July 4, he is batting .339 (19-for-56) in 13 games.
"He's an impact player; he plays great defense," said Yankees catcher Brian McCann. "He hits in the middle of the order and I think he's going to benefit from getting out of [Petco Park]. That's one of the hardest ballparks to hit in; you can crush a ball to right-center field and it doesn't get to the track."
Headley traveled to join the club on Tuesday after flying from Chicago, where the Padres were scheduled to play at Wrigley Field. Headley, who knocked the game-winning hit in Tuesday's 2-1 Yankees victory over the Rangers, arrived around 7:30 p.m. ET and made his debut in pinstripes with a ninth-inning strikeout against Shawn Tolleson.
Headley grounded out to first in the 11th, and with the bases loaded and two outs in the 12th, he grounded out to second. He made the most of his fourth at-bat of the night, however, roping an opposite-field liner with one out in the 14th to plate Brian Roberts and send the Yankees home winners.
"We feel that he's in a pretty good place, coming over here," Girardi said. "He plays in an extremely big ballpark, big ballparks during the course of the season playing in the West. I think this place will help him."
Headley, who had been the longest-tenured Padres player, told MLB.com in a telephone interview that he was "not surprised" by the deal after being involved several trade rumors over the last few years. He said that it was "bittersweet" to have the day arrive.
"On one hand, there's not many people in the game who get to play in one organization for as long as I did," Headley said. "I loved every second in San Diego, all positive memories. But on the same token, I'm excited to move on to a team in a race right now."
Headley can provide stability at a position where the Yankees were mixing and matching. With Alex Rodriguez suspended, the 27-year-old Solarte made the team as a non-roster invitee and held down the position early before slipping into an extended slump. Overall, he batted .254 with six home runs and 31 RBIs in 75 games.
Solarte was sent down to the Minors earlier this month, and though he had been recalled to the active roster, Girardi had recently been giving more playing time at third base to Kelly Johnson and Zelous Wheeler. Cashman said that he was not sure if Solarte's early-season success had been a mirage of sorts.
"He really saved our bacon early this year," Cashman said. "When we had a lot of other issues going on this year, he stepped up, and for that we're thankful. But he was a player that had to be in this situation to get Chase Headley back."
The Yankees also parted with De Paula, 23, who was 6-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 games (17 starts) with Class A Tampa this season. De Paula was ranked No. 15 among Yanks prospects by MLB.com and observers have suggested that he projects as a future big league reliever.
Cashman said that he views Headley, who can be a free agent after this season, as "a rental for two months." Rodriguez's suspension will expire after 2014, but with his future uncertain, the Yankees could use Headley's time in New York as an audition of sorts.
"I can't predict 2015 and what our needs will or won't be," Cashman said. "That's not what this is all about. We're all really focused on the remaining push in 2014 and trying to push through with what we've got."