I think we can all agree Friars fans that 2012 was nothing short of a “breakout year” for Chase Headley. San Diego’s Third Baseman established himself as the team’s most consistent hitter, and from April to October he made his presence felt. Around the All-Star Break though, rumors swirled around Headley as a possible trade target, and there appeared to be numerous teams interested in acquiring him from the Padres. To their credit, G.M. Josh Byrnes and the rest of the Front Office were unwilling to part with Headley without the appropriate compensation, and the Padres kept their Third Baseman past the trade deadline and throughout the rest of the season.
Thankfully for both parties involved (Padres Brass’ & Headley), everything seemed to click for the Third Baseman once the month of August began. From August 1st to October 3rd, Headley absolutely tore up National League pitching. Over the 57 game stretch, Headley hit .318 (70 for 220), smacked 10 Doubles, 1 Triple, 19 Home Runs, and scored 44 times. While those numbers were impressive, Headley was a one-man-wrecking-crew when it came to driving in Runs. Chase logged 63 RBI’s during those last 57 games, and his performance helped hm to win the N.L. RBI crown. Overall, Headley set season career-highs in Home Runs, RBI’s, On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, OPS, and Hits!
Yet as the offseason has begun for the Padres, they do face an important question, which some in the media (most notably The Sporting News) and other San Diego fans will ponder as well: What will Headley’s long-term future look like? And will it include a long-term career in San Diego?
The Offseason & What to do with Chase
While it worked for the Padres down the stretch-run of the regular season, the decision to keep Headley on-board has both some pluses and minuses. On one hand, San Diego kept their most consistent Offensive threat, and one of their better if not most reliable Infielder. Headley’s (Free Agent in 2015) 2nd Half surge also increased his value in terms of him remaining a marketable trading chip if the Front Office does indeed choose to move him. Yet by that same token, if the Padres do decide to lock Headley up long-term, it will cost them significantly more than they likely would have had to shell out to him had they offered him an extension before the 2012 season began. While I am sure that the new Fowler-led ownership group is not as “tight-walleted” as their predecessors, the Padres have not been known to keep their most talented players in town if their demand on the open market is too rich for their tastes.
If Headley is indeed deemed expendable, it will in large part be due to the fact that hot-shot and hot-hitting prospect Jedd Gyorko is big league ready. Gyorko has played a significant amount of time at Third Base during his Minor League career, and it appeared apparent that during the summer when Headley looked all but on his way out of town that Gyorko would step in for him at the position and gain some much needed experience as the Third Baseman of the future.
Yet Gyorko’s path to the big leagues is not necessarily blocked by Headley, and he could find himself with the Padres this season if the team does indeed keep/extend their incumbent at the hot corner. This scenario I would love to see play out at some point in 2013 involves Gyorko moving to Second Base, where he spent time in Triple-A Tucson in 2012, Headley at Third for hopefully long-term, Logan Forsythe at Shortstop, Yonder Alonso manning First Base, with Cabrera and Amarista filling in whenever necessary up the middle. In the event Headley is not moved, this Infield has the potential to develop into one of the more potent Offensive groups’ this franchise has fielded in years.
If another franchise offers the Padres a type of trade package for Headley which is similar to the one they received from Cincinnati last Winter though, and involves possibly two future Starting Pitchers (one of which could pitch as early as 2013 with the Padres), I would not blame Byrnes & Co. for mulling the move over. This team is not necessarily desperate for talented Starting Pitching, but desperate for healthy Starting Pitching. A trade for Headley could net the Padres some help in said area as well as give them more talent to develop down the road at other possible positions of need.
If in fact Headley is viewed as the long-term answer at Third Base, and the Front Office and ownership group are willing to “pony up the dough” for Headley to be extended either this offseason or at some point during 2013, or before the 2014 season ends, I will be quite pleased. It is no easy task for any franchise to find a Third Baseman entering their Offensive prime, and coming off of a season in which they ranked 1st in the National League among Third Basemen in Assists. Furthermore, Headley could be a key contributor and valuable veteran presence for this young club as they try to establish themselves as a consistent competitor over the next few years, and try to challenge for postseason berths.
What Headley will inevitably cost the Padres at the moment is difficult to gauge, but his most recent three month hot streak at the plate as well as his development as a player has surely driven his demand to the highest it has been since he signed with the franchise.
Whatever occurs this offseason though keep a close eye on what the Padres try to do and how they go about (if they indeed do) negotiating with their Third Baseman. Starting Pitching and the acquisition of players to fill that void will be something to watch and pay attention to as well, but I know that I am intrigued to see what happens with Headley and if any progress is made on an extension.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference