Last year, Chase Headley emerged as one of the best third basemen in the game, hitting .286/.376/.498 while hitting 31 home runs and driving in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres. Headley had always been a nice player, someone who could fit nicely into any lineup while playing third base. However, few people expected the kind of offensive explosion Headley put forth last season.
This season, Headley will turn 29 in May. The Padres turned down several overtures last season from teams hoping to pry him away from the Padres. While he was never listed as untouchable, GM Josh Byrnes would have had to have been blown away by an offer which made acquiring him prohibitive. No teams bit and Byrnes has a third baseman for the next five to eight years.
Headley and the Padres are currently heading down the path to an arbitration hearing as Headley has asked for a raise of $7 million from last season’s salary to $10.3 million. The Padres countered with $7 million, leaving the largest gap between team and player in arbitration this year.
The Padres have already decided that they want to move forward with Headley, and that he is most likely a part of the team’s future plans. However, arbitration hearings tend to get ugly and can lead to some bad blood or resentment in some instances. The Padres might be able to avoid arbitration with Headley by offering him a one or two-year deal or even a longer contract. Obviously, the Padres would have to be certain Headley would be a part of any future being shaped in San Diego right now.
The Padres don’t have to trade Headley, thanks to a deep farm system. The front office isn’t expecting the team to contend for a World Series this season, or maybe even next year. However, as the reinforcements start to arrive the Padres should start to contend over the next few years, perhaps by 2015.
Until then, they might have to decide if Headley will be a part of those plans or if he will price himself out of contention. How he performs this season could determine whether or not Headley is a Padre beyond the All-Star break. If he starts producing like he did in the second half of last season, they might have no choice but to trade him.