The Padres have been playing much better baseball lately. They’ve won eight of their last eleven games and only sit five games off the pace in the NL West race. Outside of Clayton Richard, the starting pitching has stabilized and the offense has done enough to keep them in most ball games.
Last week, it was reported that Padres’ ownership was prepared to offer slugger Chase Headley a “record deal,” an offer that would be the biggest in the history of the franchise. However, Headley quickly came back and said that he would not negotiate a long term contract during the midst of the season, but would be happy to work out a deal during next off season.
If Headley is true to his word, this puts the Padres in a very tricky situation moving forward. They will either have to wait until the off season to discuss Headley’s long term future with the club (and risk not getting a deal done and have Headley walk to free agency, in which case the Padres would virtually lose him for nothing) or hedge their bet and trade Headley now while they can still get value back in return.
Headley is under team control through the 2014 season, which makes him an even more desirable 3B option for a pennant-seeking team. Coupled with the fact that it’s a very weak third-baseman market out there, the Padres would likely be able to get a “Latos-like” haul back for Headley if they decided to trade him before the July 31st trade deadline.
But what kind of message would that be sending from an ownership group that has promised change and has said they want to keep franchise-type players in San Diego?
The fan-base still does not trust this organization. Whether it’s controversial comments from President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, the on going Time Warner Cable fiasco, or trading away cornerstone players such as Jake Peavy, Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos (albeit under the old regime), the Padres have struggled with a PR image over the past several years. Shipping off Headley would be another huge blow to any hope of getting back in the good graces of the San Diego community.
While Headley is currently making around a-fairly-reasonable $8 million per year, he’ll likely get a significant salary bump if and when he hits free agency in the winter of 2014. If he gets to that point, the Padres would almost certainly get out-bid by another organization for Headley’s services.
Headley has said he won’t negotiate a long term deal during the season. However, he didn’t say he wouldn’t sign a deal during the season. So in my mind, the Padres should offer Headley a deal that he literally cannot refuse. Take away the negotiation piece. He said he wants to stay in San Diego. Ownership has said they want him to stay in San Diego. So advice to ownership: make it happen and stop making empty promises.
Otherwise, the Padres will find themselves in another lose-lose situation with the fan-base and will have to again explain why a franchise player was traded or let go just because they didn’t want to pay him market value.