Jon Heyman of CBS is reporting that there is apparently a decent bit of interest in San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley. Headley currently has a .780 OPS for the last place Padres, and is just 28 years-old. He's only being paid $3.475 million this year, and is under team control for the next two seasons.
Since he became a regular in 2009 for San Diego, Headley has amassed a team-high 12.1 fWAR, with the only player coming close to that total being Adrian Gonzalez, who was traded last winter to the Red Sox. Headley has a .740 OPS with the Padres for his career, and also provides Gold Glove level defense. That .740 OPS is extremely misleading on the surface, due to half of Headley's games being played in the hitters' hellhole that is Petco Park. Away from Petco, Headley has an .808 OPS and a .144 ISO, compared to a .666 OPS and .106 ISO at Petco.
Headley is one of the premiere third basemen in baseball, a position that has become relatively weakened in recent years. His 3.0 fWAR this season is second to only David Wright of the Mets, and his .780 OPS is one of the top numbers in the league, even with the Petco Park factor in play. Over the last four years, Headley is a top ten fWAR player at third base, and when you exclude players who have gotten a lot of time at other positions (Kevin Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez, Martin Prado), he's a borderline top five player at the position.
This is a player who is just entering his prime with the Padres, and could be a fantastic building block for them in the future. But at the same time, this Padres team has a lot of holes. Trading Mat Latos this past offseason filled some of those holes (six years each of Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso is not a bad thing at all for an erratic pitcher), and the extension they gave to Cameron Maybin is also another step in the right direction. San Diego's free agents this offseason are essentially Carlos Quentin (who is a lock to be moved in the next five weeks) and a pile of slop, so it's not as if they need to make a run right now.
But on the other hand, despite a plethora of young talent, this team doesn't look close to contending. Their starting pitching staff is going to be without their best pitcher (Cory Luebke) for the next year, and the rest of the crew they have in the majors is not inspiring. There's some hope down in the minors, including a third base prospect that could replace Headley at third in Jedd Gyorko, who has an .849 OPS and 14 homers in 71 games this year in AA and AAA. The presence of Gyorko could enable the Padres to feel much more comfortable with dealing Headley, who could command a fantastic return.
Two and a half years of control of a young, potentially elite player at a corner position...that would get the Padres a very nice return, and as a team that needs a lot of help, it's a very enticing proposition. But here's the thing: could any contender that needs a third baseman pony up enough to make the deal worthwhile for the Padres? One team that might have enough chips at the table, but the Padres might be adverse to a deal with, is their division rivals in Arizona. The Diamondbacks have been getting substandard production all year at third, primarily from Ryan Roberts, and their recent hot streak as the team inching closer to contention. Arizona has a farm system that includes a pair of top tier pitchers that might be able to be had in Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin, as well as younger prospects like outfielder Alfredo Marte, former first round pick Bobby Borchering, and maybe even highly touted Dominican signee Wagner Mateo. I don't think that the Diamondbacks would be willing to top with their pair of top ten picks from a year ago though, Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley.
The Indians are another team that could have sizable interest in Headley, but they blew up their farm system for Ubaldo Jimenez last July, and I don't think they have the ammo necessary to pick up Headley. The same situations arise in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, where the teams don't have the caliber of prospects that would probably interest the Padres...though a Domonic Brown centered package from the Phillies along with a top tier pitcher like Trevor May or Tyler Cloyd be enticing.
At any rate, the Padres have an extremely valuable chip right now in Headley. I personally don't think they're anywhere close to contention, and that trading him for even more young talent wouldn't be a bad thing. If a team is willing to pony up a deal that knocks their socks off, the Padres should pull the trigger, and send their franchise third baseman to a new home.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com
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