Cameron Maybin Cameron Maybin

Why the Cameron Maybin Extension May Mean No Extension for Chase Headley


Over the weekend, news broke that the Padres and Cameron Maybin had come to an agreement on a 5-year, $25 million contract extension.  The deal includes an option for a sixth year worth between $6-8 million.  The deal was huge for the Padres and I’ve yet to find anyone who disagrees with the extension.  Joe Soriano of Call to the Pen has a fantastic analysis of the transaction that you can read here, but one aspect of the transaction that needs analysis is the effect on other contract that may be of focus to the organization.

Specifically, the Maybin extension may have an impact on any possible Chase Headley contract extension.  As Soriano pointed out in his analysis, the Padres are banking on Maybin being more than a 1 win player (WAR).  From a general contract standpoint, players that average 1 win per season are thought to be worth $5 million per season.  If Maybin performs anywhere close to his 2011 self, the Padres will have made out like bandits.  However, with Headley, a mutually beneficial deal that allows some upside for the Padres was becoming increasingly difficult for the team to structure.  Now, with Maybin’s deal setting the pace, the Padres will have a much harder time finding a way to get an extension for Headley done that makes him happy while allowing the Padres the possibility of having signed him for a bargain.

Take Maybin’s value over the last few seasons as opposed to his salary.  In his five seasons, Maybin averaged 1.02 WAR per season.  In those five seasons, he made a combined $1.2 million approximately.  Because he was under team control, the Marlins and the Padres benefited from him outplaying his pay.

Now, consider Chase Headley.  He has played in five major league seasons as well.  In that time, he averaged 1.28 WAR.  The big difference though is Headley’s current salary.  He’s already guaranteed $3.48 million in 2012.  With a performance in 2012 similar to his 2011 performance, Headley will likely see another bump in arbitration.  What the bump may be is unknown, but it will clearly be over $4 million.

With Maybin’s contract in place, the Padres have set a precedent.  If they were to offer a similar contract to Headley, they would be saying Headley is of equal value.  But the fact is, Headley play above average defense at third, has some power, and has already learned to hit in Petco.  As of right now, Headley is a known commodity.  Maybin is still a relative unknown with an exciting upside.  It is difficult to see Headley accepting a 5 year deal in the $25 million range.  Headley is already 27, three years older than Maybin, and will likely command a larger contract.

While Headley will not break the bank, the Padres may not be willing to go more than $5 million a year for a long-term contract.  They have Jedd Gyorko waiting in the wings, and can test him out before making their ultimate decision on Headley.  If Gyorko performs as most think he will, the Padres will have another shot at inking a young, talented player to a long-term deal.  Going that route would make Headley obsolete and too expensive to retain.

The Maybin contract was the perfect move for the Padres.  It was the right move.  However, it may set a precedent that makes Headley too expensive for San Diego to keep.  Had the team extended Headley’s contract last season, they would have been in much better shape.  Headley had a decent 2010 and would have been more likely to sign a team-friendly long-term deal.  The Padres had Jed Hoyer at the helm then, and their direction still was not clear.  But they missed out.  No one knows for sure, but it seems very plausible that they could have locked Headley up to a five or six year deal for anywhere between $4-5 million.

Now, it seems as if the club may go in a different direction at third base, unless they are willing to shell out a contract worth slightly more than Maybin’s.  With Maybin on board for years to come, the team has some options and some things to consider.  Chase Headley’s future with the team is one of the club’s priorities going forward.  It will be interesting how Josh Byrnes handles him.