The San Diego Padres are a pitch-first team with a small budget who has the unfortunate problem of having a breakout offensive star, Chase Headley.
Why a problem? Well, that the breakout season (.875 OPS, 7.4 fWAR) came with the third baseman just a couple of years away from free agency. Oh yes, Headley is going to get very expensive — and very soon.
So, like Adrian Gonzalez before him, it makes sense that the Padres would move him while his value is sky-high. In fact, the team had been widely rumored to have tried last summer, but obviously, no deal materialized despite multiple teams being interested.
By the time Opening Day is here for the 2013 season, the story is set to repeat again…or maybe not, according to Padres manager Josh Byrnes:
Well, at least not yet, anyway:
not avaliable right now. They have 2 years, see where they are in July
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 8, 2013
So, basically, “don’t call us until the summer” is the general gist here. The Padres, understandably, want to see if they can put on a miracle run in the division like they almost did with Mat Latos and company in 2012, when the team led the NL West for a whopping 148 days.
Even with a full season of Carlos Quentin (who has a no-trade clause in his deal) and Headley, whether they can do so again in 2013 is dubious, if only because of the questionable group of starting pitchers that the team will roll out this season.
Reading between the lines, it seems that Byrnes wants to hold out on moving the team’s biggest star until as late as possible, much as the team did with Gonzalez.
They may be optimistic, but the Padres brass are not oblivious to the fact that the team will likely be struggling to stay anywhere above last place in the NL West during the upcoming season, and that the extra year of team control via arbitration makes Headley that much more valuable now than he will be in 2014.
Unless they plan on extending Headley now — which would be a good idea, considering that he hasn’t had a chance to repeat his fantastic 2012 — the Padres are simply waiting out the days until they can no longer afford the third baseman.
If he regresses, it’s almost a lose-lose situation (doesn’t help the team on field, doesn’t help his trade value).
Yes, they technically have a couple of years to evaluate the prospects of a Headley trade, but realistically, the evaluation process starts as soon as this team struggles to stay with the pack in 2013 — which is to say that it will happen very soon.