We’ve been down this road before with the Padres‘ Chase Headley, who is once again very available, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. But now with only one year remaining and coming off an injury-prone down year, the Padres’ asking price might be more in the realm of realism, which could very well lead to him being pursued by the Dodgers this off-season.
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres — There’s growing sentiment that Headley will be traded this offseason. There’s been talk about an extension, but the Padres, who are now willing to increase payroll under CEO Mike Dee’s leadership, are thinking that they can improve a couple of different areas long-term by dealing their third baseman. Dee is hoping to “win our fans back. We have to build trust with our fans that when we make a move it’s for the good of the franchise, a good baseball move rather than a perception that we’re trying to trim payroll. We need our fans to trust us as an organization again.”
So the Pads are going to be looking for multiple prospects that can help them sooner than later, but should they even be asking for a lot?
Well, Headley appeared to put it all together in 2012 in his age 28 season, posting a .286/.376/.498/.875 breakout line with above-average to plus defense at third. He was drawing trade interest across the board, and extension speculation was a weekly deal. But then 2013 happened. Headley’s line plummeted to .250/.347/.400/.747, and all the talks of him being a fluke begun.
In a lot of ways, though, that label was accurate. His 2012 WAS likely a fluke, as a player with a ~10% HR/FB rate all of a sudden saw that shoot up to 21.3%, which was good for 10th in the entire majors. But while 2012 was him having a career year, his 2013 was also a fluke. Headley was slowed by a thumb injury (fractured in Spring Training) and a knee injury that was described as needing surgery in Spring Training (but he kept playing on it anyway). Yet, even without an elite bat, the injuries, and a bit of bad luck, Headley still managed to post a bunch of value. He was still a good fielder at a scarce position and an above league-average hitter, making him a 3.5-4.5 WAR player, even at his supposed lowest career point.
The thing is that while Juan Uribe was a great story for the Dodgers, him and Headley provided on-field value in 2013 that wasn’t that far apart, and Headley would certainly be projected to post a better value in 2014. But the difference in perception between the two is led by the 2013 expectations of Uribe being worthless and Headley being on his way to stardom. So while I still think Uribe on a short deal is a great option, it would be hard to begrudge the team for going after Headley in a trade, who could provide well above-average production at a scarce position for the next 4-6 years (assuming an extension takes place).
So what to trade for a year of team-controlled Chase Headley (~$10 million in 2014)? Dustin Nosler suggests a package of prospects Zach Lee, Chris Reed, and Justin Chigbogu. And while I think Lee is the surest thing to be a solid MLB starter in the system, thus providing more value than Headley (in a vacuum), I absolutely would jump at that deal.
However, I think the inter-divisional trade tax for the Dodgers and the need of the Padres to fill multiple positions with MLB-ready players will lead to the requirement of a better package for Headley. Maybe replacing Chigbogu with Ross Stripling would work, but I think the Padres would prefer Joc Pederson and a couple of solid arms instead. Hopefully they would settle for the former package, as it would still provide them with three prospects that they could potentially debut for the fanbase in 2014.
That said, I’m not convinced the Padres go for it without Pederson, but with only him and Corey Seager as potential impact guys in the Dodgers system, it’s difficult to see the Dodgers parting with either for a player with one year of team control left. Yet with no real answer long-term answer at third, this might be the Dodgers’ best bet at securing the hot corner. And if the Padres truly intend on trading him regardless, then the Dodgers will not likely have the option of signing him as a free agent in 2015.
I don’t think Headley has established himself as a must-get for the team, especially due to the option of Uribe returning and the requirement to overpay a divisional rival, but it’s certainly worth taking a long look, more so than I suspect most fans believe he deserves due to Headley’s 2012 slash line.