Over the past two years, Chase Headley has endured the peaks and valleys that come with being a highly-regarded and highly-sought after baseball talent. The roller coaster ride will continue for another season as the Padres ponder whether to trade their third baseman or make him a cornerstone of their franchise. Despite the uncertainty, Headley wants to remain a Padre, writes ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
"My first priority would be to stay in San Diego," Headley said. "I love San Diego, and I've been with a lot of guys in this room for a long time. There are a lot of pieces here, and we're a lot closer [to contending] than people think."
Last May, Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler announced the team will make an offer to the 29-year-old, which will be the largest in franchise history. No formal offer has apparently been presented to agent Jim Murray of Excel Sports Management, and Headley acknowledges the time is ripe to settle the issue.
"It's probably prudent for both sides to get a little clarity this offseason versus this dragging on. From the conversations I've had with our ownership and with (GM) Josh (Byrnes) in the past, they honestly want to keep me here. I really believe that. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't mean they didn't try or that we didn't want to be here. Sometimes, things don't work out. But there's still mutual interest, and I expect it will continue in the offseason."
Crasnick notes the dilemma surrounding Headley is whether his future offensive output will be like this year's (.243/.335/.389 with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, and 2.1 WAR) or will he be able to replicate his success from 2012 (.286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs, a NL-best 115 RBIs, 6.3 WAR, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards, and a fifth-place finish in the NL MVP voting). Padres manager Bud Black leans towards the latter suggesting injuries are the cause of Headley's 2013 numbers.
"He got derailed with the thumb out of the chute, and, like a lot of players, he probably came back a week too soon," Black said. "So there was a little bit of catch-up there. Then, he got into May and some of the numbers weren't where he thought they should be, and a natural thing occurred: He put pressure on himself to try to validate what he did last year. That always gets you."
Headley concurs admitting he shouldn't be compensated based solely on his 2012 campaign "because I haven't done that consistently every year," but nor should he be punished for this year's struggles. "I also don't think I'm this type of player, either. I don't consider this to be the norm of my career. I think I'm going to come back and play better."
Byrnes, meanwhile, seems to carefully suggest that one factor for the Padres will be an extension candidate's willingness to take a hometown discount. "We really want the contracts to be fair," he says. "But when we're making a multiyear commitment, we also want guys who are excited about being Padres and the challenges we're going to face."
Crasnick opines Headley may not be in the realm of other premier third basemen in the league naming David Wright (eight years, $138MM), Evan Longoria (10 years, $136.6MM), and Ryan Zimmerman (six years, $100MM). Crasnick sees Alex Gordon as a better comparable ($10MM in 2014 and $12.5MM in 2015 with a 2016 option also worth $12.5) because they share similar statistics and agencies. Headley is eligible for arbitration again this offseason where he will undoubtedly receive a raise from his current salary of $8.575MM.