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Chase Headley Rumors
Here are a few notes on the Padres, who opened the day a full three games back of the division-leading Dodgers and Giants in the National League West:
- The Pads have been one of the few MLB teams to have been burned by early-career extensions in recent years, notes Dave Cameron in a piece for FOX Sports. One issue — putting aside the injury and performance issues that have cropped up — is that San Diego has made several of its bets on players whose expected future market value (through arbitration and free agency) was simply not that high. That, in turn, limited the amount of upside (in terms of cost savings) that the team could realize through those contracts. The team's recent extension of Jedd Gyorko, Cameron argues, is of the same ilk: he is not a high-average hitter or stolen base threat, and his power is less impressive if he plays at third in the future. Cameron opines that, while the deal is not necessarily a bad contract, the team still took on significant risk without getting a real chance at landing a "huge bargain."
- Current third baseman Chase Headley, meanwhile, reportedly turned down his chance at a new deal, and looks destined for the open market at the end of the season. MLB.com's Corey Brock noted that Headley had told him late in the spring that he "just [didn't] think it was ever the right time" to strike an extension. "There's enough ground in between us to where it wasn't going to work out right now," Headley said. "We just couldn't find that common ground." As Brock explains, the likely options now for San Diego look to be a trade, qualifying offer after the year, or another run at a contract. Headley addressed the QO himself with Brock: "We weighed that [in discussions with the team] and it's not a great system for the player. You have to play six full seasons just to get to free agency. … When you get to that point in your career, I don't think it's necessarily fair to have this one shot at free agency affected by that. At some point, someone is going to take one of those." Of course, Headley added that accepting the QO is "not a bad way to go" because "that's a pretty big number for one year."
- Staff ace Andrew Cashner is showing signs that he could be developing into a true ace, writes Scott Miller for FOX Sports San Diego. Acquired from the Cubs in exchange for young slugger Anthony Rizzo, in what was a bold trade for both clubs, the 27-year-old has made clear that he wants and expects to be a dominant force. "I definitely want a no-hitter," said Cashner, calling it "one of my goals." Indeed, he has looked capable of that recently. Cashner has allowed just 10 hits and three earned runs through his first 21 innings (over three starts) in 2014, striking out 9.4 against 3.0 free passes per nine while holding opposing hitters to a .363 OPS. After re-discovering his slider last year, Cashner worked to a 2.14 ERA in the second half. As he plays out his first arb-eligible season, the big righty looks like a prime extension candidate in his own right.
The Padres extended one infielder yesterday when they locked up Jedd Gyorko through the 2019 season for a total of $35MM, and today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports shines some light on San Diego's efforts to do the same with another of their infielders this past offseason. According to Heyman, the Padres offered third baseman Chase Headley a three-year extension worth $33-39MM. The deal would have gone into effect beginning in 2015, bringing Headley's four-year guarantee to a maximum of $49.525MM (Headley is earning $10.525MM in 2014).
The two sides are said to be nowhere close to finding a middle ground, writes Heyman, which isn't particularly surprising considering the fact that just one year ago, the Padres were prepared to make Headley an offer that would make him the highest-paid player in franchise history (topping Jake Peavy's $52MM guarantee). Headley, however, responded by stating that he didn't wish to dicuss contractual matters during the season.
At the time of the report, I speculated on Headley's chances at earning $100MM or more. Coming off a .286/.376/.498 season in which he belted 31 homers with 17 steals and elite defense, there seemed to be a case. Headley regressed to a still-solid batting line of .250/.347/.400 this past season (116 OPS+, 113 wRC+) and played his typically strong defense, but that platform year is far less enticing for a club than his MVP-caliber 2012 season. Headley and his agents at Excel Sports Management likely want to be compensated based on something closer to his ceiling (i.e. 2012), while the Padres look to be trying to leverage his decreased production into financial savings — a logical and understandable stance for each side.
A big year for Headley could persuade the Padres to up their offer, but they'd be doing so with Headley's first run through free agency nigh, and other, deeper-pocketed teams may be willing to outspend to secure the switch-hitter's service. Headley said earlier in Spring Training that he wasn't planning on discussing his contract until after the season. He's said in the past that his preference is to remain in San Diego, but the prospect of free agency may alter that thinking when the time comes in six months. Even without a return to his 2012 peak, Headley figures to be one of the most sought-after free agents on next year's open market.
Left-hander Brady Aiken and righty Tyler Kolek sit atop Baseball America's list of the top 2014 draft prospects, BA's John Manuel writes. The two high schoolers have supplanted NC State southpaw Carlos Rodon, who was long considered to be the favorite as the first overall pick but hasn't looked great this spring. Six of the top seven prospects on BA's list (and 11 of the top 15) are pitchers, as several young arms have improved their draft stock this spring while several of the most-regarded hitters haven't fared as well.
Here's some more from around baseball as we head into the weekend…
- High-ranking executives from the Astros, Marlins, White Sox, Cubs and Phillies have all recently scouted Kolek's starts, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports. These clubs hold the top four overall picks in June's draft, while the Phillies pick seventh overall. According to Manuel, "Kolek has hit 100 mph repeatedly and has the best pure arm in the draft."
- Joe Smith tells ESPN New York's Adam Rubin (Twitter link) that the Mets were interested in signing him last winter, and "floated" a contract offer similar to the three-year, $15.75MM deal that Smith received from the Angels. Rubin was surprised that the Mets were willing to commit that much to a setup man, though Smith would've added some quality depth to a Mets bullpen that is already hurting thanks to the absence of Bobby Parnell.
- Both Chase Headley and the Padres are off to slow starts, which only further complicates the difficult contract-year situation for the third baseman, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince writes. With an extension unlikely, Headley could be a midseason trade candidate if the Friars fall out of the race, though if Headley continues to struggle, the Padres could conceivably see him leave for free agency and get nothing in return.
- The Padres parting ways with Headley is "looking [like] the most realistic option," Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune said during an online chat with readers. "Players don't get better with age so much anymore, so regardless of what Headley does this year, it doesn't make financial sense to pay for past production," Sanders writes.
- The Astros made a strong bid for Jose Abreu before the slugger signed with the White Sox, and Houston GM Jeff Luhnow discussed his club's pursuit with MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. "We stretched ourselves further than we intended to and we came pretty close. When you factor in the tax advantages of Texas vs. other markets, the gap was really only a couple of million dollars at the end of the day," Luhnow said. "It's one of those things, should we have pushed a little harder? Possibly. When you're in negotiations like that and you're in a bidding war like that, you have to have limits or you'll be the one that overpays. That's one I do think we came close. He's going to be a good player, and that's why we put all that effort into it."
- The Tigers have been extraordinarily successful in trades since Dave Dombrowski joined the organization in 2001, Grantland's Rany Jazayerli writes. Given Dombrowski's impressive with not only the Tigers, but also the Marlins and Expos over his long career, Jazayerli thinks it's too early to write off the much-maligned Doug Fister trade as a mistake for Detroit.
The Diamondbacks lost yet another arm to Tommy John surgery yesterday, as Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reported (via Twitter) that right-hander David Hernandez will miss the 2014 season and undergo the operation. The 28-year-old Hernandez, acquired from the Orioles in the Mark Reynolds trade, emerged as one of the NL's best setup men from 2011-12 before stumbling in 2013. However, though he finished with a pedestrian 4.48 ERA last season, Hernandez had seemingly righted the ship in September, as he allowed just one run with 16 strikeouts against four walks in 14 innings in the season's final month. Arizona has also seen starters Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson fall to Tommy John surgery recently (twice, in Hudson's case).
Here's more out of the NL West…
- Chase Headley admits to MLB.com's Corey Brock that this could be his final season with the Padres, but says he's trying not to think about that at this point. Headley tells Brock that later on in the season, it will probably begin to set in, but he's learned not to worry about trade rumors either, should those arise. Headley recalls the 2012 trade deadline: "It wasn't if you're getting traded, it's when and where. I did my best to try and block that. I think I've learned from it and am better for it now."
- From that same piece, Brock spoke with Padres GM Josh Byrnes and former Padres GM Kevin Towers (now the GM of the division-rival Diamondbacks) about the 2005 draft. in which San Diego selected Headley 66th overall. Headley thought he might end up with the Red Sox, where Byrnes was an assistant GM, as the two sides had a good deal of contact prior to the draft. Byrnes said there was "a lot of debate" about Headley, and he met with him several times, coming away impressed. However, Towers and the Padres liked what they saw. "Before then, we were having a hard time developing position players, and Chase was sort of the poster child for what we wanted," Towers tells Brock. "Chase had the great pitch recognition, a sweet spot for contact on his bat and he was a switch-hitter."
- Byrnes also spoke with the San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee about his time as the Padres' GM and stated that he actually prefers the challenge of building a team creatively than having seemingly unlimited funds as the Dodgers do: "Honestly, I prefer to do it this way. There are a lot of things that go into how we put it together and how we need to succeed." Byrnes went on to discuss scouting, player development and trades for players like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Asked if he thought it would be more satisfying to reach the playoffs with a team built through those means than through a large payroll, Byrnes did not hesitate to say yes.
It still appears unlikely that the Padres will sign Chase Headley to an extension, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. "This has been a topic for a couple years. There's been dialogue. Both sides have tried. We just haven't been able to agree to the essential deal parameters," says GM Josh Byrnes. "There are no active discussions. But the door's always open."
Heyman notes that both Headley and the Padres agree that they aren't likely to find common ground on an extension. Last month, Headley told reporters that it would be "not fair" to his teammates if extension talks distracted the team from its goals, and that it seemed likely that the two sides would hold off on extension talks until after the season, at which point Headley will be a free agent.
Headley hit .250/.347/.400 in 600 plate appearances in 2013, significantly worse than his banner 2012 season. Headley noted last month that the large difference between the two seasons made it tough to negotiate a deal. Headley is represented by Excel Sports Management.
Dr. Frank Jobe, the man who performed the first — or, perhaps more accurately, the – Tommy John surgery, has passed away at the age of 88. As MLB.com's Ken Gurnick writes, the longtime Dodgers medical director was instrumental in pioneering that now-commonplace, immensely impactful procedure: "it was Jobe who invented it, performed it, refined it and taught it to hundreds of training orthopedic surgeons." Needless to say, Jobe's contributions to the game will continue to have impact for generations to come, and MLBTR joins the rest of the baseball world in saluting him in passing. If you're interested in learning more about his remarkable life, see this excellent bio piece from MLB.com's Doug Miller.
More from the NL West:
- Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin suffered an arm issue of his own, rupturing his left biceps tendon, but will not need surgery at this point, MLB.com's Corey Brock reports. GM Josh Byrnes said he feared the worst — a season-ending injury — but that after consulting the medical staff "the strong consensus was no surgery." Though a timeline has not yet been set, Maybin could return within four to six weeks. San Diego should have plenty of depth to cover in Maybin's absence, though the club will certainly hope for a positive resolution of this latest setback for the 26-year-old, who signed a five-year, $25MM deal before the 2012 season.
- Meanwhile, the Padres have let third baseman Chase Headley know that they fully intend to make him a qualifying offer at the end of the year, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com via Twitter. While this does not come as a surprise, it indicates that San Diego — like the Indians with Justin Masterson — views the QO as a card to be played in extension talks.
- Former Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt will work out with the club for a ten-day stretch as he seeks another shot at a MLB job, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post. The club previously declined to exercise its half of a mutual option on the 38-year-old after he underwent — you guessed it — Tommy John surgery late last year. It is surely worth it for Colorado to take a look, as Betancourt has largely been an outstanding reliever since breaking into the bigs at the late age of 28 back in 2003.
Byron Buxton holds the top position in Baseball America's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the sport. It's no surprise that Buxton was ranked #1 given that the Twins outfielder was similarly ranked in BA's midseason top 100 last summer. Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (who qualifies for the list despite his long career in Japan) and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez round out the top five.
Here's some more from around baseball….
- Baseball America's John Manuel picks out some of the best and worst rankings from the past 24 years of BA's Top 100 Prospects lists.
- The Braves signed long-term extensions with several core players but only extended Jason Heyward through his two remaining arbitration years. While some believe that this means Heyward's time in Atlanta is limited, MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes that "the expectation is that after next season, the Heyward deal can be expanded so that he, too, will be locked up at least through the first year in the new ballpark." Such a deal would require extending Heyward through at least his first two free agent years, which could get very expensive for the Braves if Heyward finally breaks out into stardom, as many have predicted for the young outfielder.
- Padres chairman Ron Fowler told reporters (including Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune) that the club is prepared to raise payroll even further beyond the current $87MM+ projection for 2014.
- In regards to negotiations with Chase Headley on a multiyear deal, Fowler said, “There has been dialogue and we will continue to have dialogue at the appropriate time through the appropriate sources.” Headley recently hinted that not much progress was being made and that talks could be tabled until after the season.
- According to a talent evaluator who has seen Joe Saunders throw, the veteran southpaw could be the "steal of February," the evaluator tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Saunders posted a rough 5.26 ERA over 183 innings for the Mariners last season. "No one saying he’s a star, but he’s a major-league pitcher," Rosenthal writes.
- The Nationals' acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers is the best transaction of the 2014 offseason, as judged by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. The Fister trade headlines Cameron's list of the winter's top 10 moves.
- Though Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts denied that his club's profits were going anywhere but back into the team, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders why the Cubs' revenues haven't been reflected in the Major League payroll.
- NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon stands alone in his own tier atop ESPN's Keith Law's four-tier breakdown of the 2014 draft's top prospects (Insider subscription required).
Though there have been several extensions inked of late — including Freddie Freeman, Michael Brantley, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel, with Homer Bailey reportedly nearing a deal — it doesn't sound like the Padres and Chase Headley will be reaching a middle ground on a multi-year pact in the near future. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune was among the reporters that spoke with Headley regarding his contract today, and the third baseman offered the following:
"It’s not fair to the guys in this clubhouse to have anybody’s attention focused on anything but trying to win and trying to do your best for the team. I don’t want to put my foot down and say nothing’s gonna happen, but at this point it certainly seems that we’ll table these until the end of the season."
Headley, who turns 30 on May 9th, admitted that his own struggles have made it difficult to find a common ground in extension talks. The switch-hitter finished fifth in the NL MVP voting in 2012 after batting .286/.376/.498, but he "slumped" to a .250/.347/.400 batting line in 2013 (still good for a 116 OPS+). "That’s part of what makes this so tricky, is you’ve had such a big variation in the last two seasons," he said.
Clearly, Headley would prefer to be compensated based on his 2012 form, while the Padres have some reservations after last season's decline. However, Headley said that the gap in contractual discussions hasn't strained his relationship with the organization:
"Both sides understand where the other party’s coming from and, frankly, respects where the other side is coming from. … We’re hoping at some point that we can come to common ground."
Last May, Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler told the press that the team was planning on making Headley an offer that would make him the highest-paid player in franchise history. Headley was caught off-guard by the news and said he preferred not to discuss extensions midseason.
Now, it appears that he'll be presented with the opportunity to test an open market in which he will be one of the top names available. Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Colby Rasmus, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera and Brett Gardner are among the top free-agent position players available. Ramirez, who is probably the top name set to hit the market, recently expressed his desire to remain with the Dodgers and is in talks about an extension of his own, however.
Draft pick compensation is hanging over the market for several prominent, unsigned free agents — namely, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, and Kendrys Morales. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at the draft pick situations of some of the clubs that might consider adding one of those names. As we finish a quiet Monday, let's round up some notes on free agent rumors from around the league:
- The Angels do not seem to be operating with much urgency to add a free agent pitcher, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. If the club does add to its rotation with an open-market contract, says DiGiovanna, it is more likely to go after Jason Hammel or Chris Capuano than Bronson Arroyo or Paul Maholm.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said today that the club does not have any outstanding offers for guaranteed MLB deals, tweets Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. As MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Tracker shows, Philadelphia has not entered such a pact since inking Roberto Hernandez on December 18.
- After committing a cool half-billion dollars through free agency (if you count Masahiro Tanaka and his release fee), the Yankees appear to be done adding significant salaries for the offseason, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. New York seems to be following through on GM Brian Cashman's statements that the club would not pursue Drew, says Martino, and the team is not currently trying to work out a deal to bring Chase Headley over from the Padres.
The Padres have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal with third baseman Chase Headley, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Excel Sports Management client will earn a $10.525MM salary in his final season prior to free agency, Sherman reports.
Consistently considered to be a trade candidate due to his looming free agency, the Padres' tight budget and the Padres' sub-.500 finishes in each of the past two seasons, the 29-year-old Headley has seen his name circulate on the rumor mill more than nearly any player in the past 18 to 24 months. However, San Diego GM Josh Byrnes told me back in November that the team was comfortable doing a one-year deal with Headley and entering 2014 with him as the third baseman, even without an extension.
The Padres reportedly wanted to offer Headley an extension that would make him the highest-paid player in franchise history early in the 2013 campaign. The news caught Headley off guard, as he'd informed the team that he did not want extension talks to spill beyond Opening Day.
Headley turned in a solid season in 2013, batting .250/.347/.400 with 13 homers, eight steals and excellent third-base defense, but that production was a far cry from his 2012 season. In 2012, Headley broke out with a .286/.376/.498 batting line, 31 homers and a career-best 17 steals to go along with his great glove-work. Headley likely didn't want to sign an extension after seeing his stock tumble, especially when a fractured thumb and a balky knee that required offseason surgery likely contributed to his 2013 decline.
Headley's $10.525MM salary is $525K higher than MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected. With Headley taken care of, San Diego has only Andrew Cashner remaining as an unsettled arb case, as shown in our Arbitration Tracker.