Clearly, the team wanted to acquire a team-controlled pitcher with some potential, while washing their hands of Blash. In doing so, they also ended up taking on Chase Headley and his $13 million salary. The initial reaction of many was that the Padres had erred in this transaction. Why on earth would the rebuilding team trade to bring a 33-year-old Headley back?
As I write this piece, I recognize that the title may end up being a moot point. Headley does have sufficient trade value and the Padres were aware of that. In fact, several credible sources have indicated that the team is currently pushing very hard to deal him at the winter meetings. This is believable. There are teams that are searching for help at third base. It was reported that A.J. Preller himself had indicated to Headley that his future with the team is precarious and that he should be prepared for anything. He will likely be moved.
Then again, what about the slight chance that he’s not? As we all know, Preller rarely dispenses of players for less than he thinks that they are worth. The most recent example of this was his decision to hold onto Brad Hand at the 2017 trade deadline. If Preller thinks that he may be getting shortchanged in the current market for Headley, he may just hold off until the 2018 deadline when teams are more desperate. It would not be out of character.
In the event that this occurs, I can imagine that there will be a faction of Padres fans who will have a fit and ask for Preller’s head. While such a move would be difficult to fully understand, it wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world.
Headley slashed .273/.352/.406 with a wRC+ of 104 in 586 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2017. He’s not a bad player. He gets on base at a reasonable rate. For comparison, Nolan Arenado had a OBP of .373 in 2017. As my EVT colleague Patrick Brewer pointed out in a recent podcast, Headley actually had a higher wRC+ than both Yangervis Solarte (93) and Cory Spangenberg (94) last season. Padres fan generally have a favorable opinion of both Solarte and Spangenberg it seems, right? When you look at it from this perspective, does having Headley on the team really hurt them that badly, if at all?
It could be that Spangenberg and/or Solarte are easier to move because they are less expensive and have more team-controlled years attached to them. Headley could fill in for a portion of the season at third until (and this is a stretch) Fernando Tatis is brought up late in the season to be slowly introduced to Major League play at the hot corner. If the Padres end up not getting Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers could still potentially be moved to left field and Headley could fill in at first. Again, the idea would ultimately be for Headley to get traded at the deadline for some valuable pieces. Myers could move back to first at that point, or maybe another option is available by then.
My premise is basically this: If Headley is a Padre in 2018, it’s not going to be so terrible. He will provide some offensive value and bring the intangibles of leadership. We don’t need to be so worried about the team spending $13 million of Ron Fowler’s dollars because the payroll is already very low as it is. I mean come on, we are somehow actually okay with giving Hosmer $200 million. This should be no big deal. I would like to reiterate that I think the team will trade Headley before the 2018 season and it will be for the best, but he wouldn’t be a hindrance to this team in what will most certainly shake out to be another development year.