Chase Headley is likely to be traded if the Padres cannot sign him to a contract extension this offseason.
The San Diego Padres missed out on a golden opportunity to trade Chase Headley at peak value last offseason. With two years of club control remaining and coming off of an MVP-like second half in 2012, Headley would've likely netted the Padres a strong package of prospects.
Instead, they held on to their star third baseman, who reverted back to his previous "solid, yet unspectacular" form as the Padres finished with 86 losses and well out of playoff contention.
They're now in a position to at least try to get something of value in return for Headley's last year of service before he hits free agency next offseason. While his overall numbers were down in 2013 (.747 OPS, 13 HR in 141 games), he finished strong with an .829 OPS over his last 59 games. There are also several teams desperate for third base help at a time when options are few and far between.
So his value hasn't dipped as much as it could have.
A contract extension is still a possibility, although the likelihood is that Headley believes he can maximize his value with a strong 2014 season and isn't interested in signing an extension prior to that unless the Padres are willing to pay him more than market value.
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, there is a "growing sentiment" that the Padres will deal the 29-year-old switch-hitter prior to the 2014 season. With that in mind, here are five potential trade ideas that make the most sense for the Padres and the potential suitor.
Should Mike Napoli sign elsewhere this offseason, the Boston Red Sox are a team with several in-house options for the first base job, including Mike Carp and Daniel Nava. But it's also possible for Will Middlebrooks to move across the diamond to make room for an offseason acquisition like Chase Headley.
Armed with arguably more pitching depth than any other team in baseball, it would be a huge surprise if the Sox didn't trade away some of that depth to fill one of a few spots on the diamond that are currently up for grabs.
Headley for one year and an estimated salary of $11 million in 2014, even at the expense of a very good prospect or two, could be preferable over re-signing Napoli to a multi-year deal in excess of $15 million per season or acquiring Mark Trumbo, who'd be much more costlier in a deal because of his 30-plus home run power and three years of club control.
The Padres could be willing to make a deal if the Sox were to include right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (pictured), who is coming off of a terrific season between Triple-A and Double-A (2.96 ERA, 140 IP, 112 H, 42 BB, 127 K), and up-and-coming second base prospect Mookie Betts (.923 OPS, 15 HR, 38 SB between High-A and Low-A), who isn't getting to Boston anytime soon with Dustin Pedroia signed long-term.
Neither player appeared to be in the future plans after poor 2012 seasons, so the Sox could take advantage of their sudden burst in value by using them as trade bait to acquire a solid big leaguer to help their 2014 team.
Ranaudo could reach San Diego sometime in 2014, while Betts would give the Padres another "Second Baseman of the Future" option to go along with Cory Spangenberg, who would likely start the season in Triple-A. Betts would begin the season in Double-A, while the Padres would likely find a stopgap to cover second base on the big league club in 2014 with Jedd Gyorko moving over to third base to replace Headley.
If Chase Headley had been available last offseason, the Chicago White Sox wouldn't have had a chance to get involved in the bidding because of a thin farm system that was considered one of the worst in baseball. Instead, they signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million deal that has been a major disappointment thus far.
Fast-forward a year, and not only is there still a hole at third base, but the price has also gone down on Headley and the farm system has improved to the point where the Sox could make a strong bid for him without giving up any of their top two or three prospects.
They do have some solid middle infield prospects, including speedster Micah Johnson (.952 OPS, 61 SB in Low-A), and the necessary pitching depth to entice the Padres. If they were to offer big league lefty Hector Santiago (pictured; 3.56 ERA, 149 IP 137 H, 72 BB, 137 K), along with Johnson and disappointing second baseman Gordon Beckham, the Sox could have their answer at the hot corner for 2014.
The Padres would add a pretty good second base prospect with plus-plus speed to the farm system, a solid starting rotation option who could also help in a setup role if necessary, and a former first-round pick who could flourish with a change of scenery while playing second base regularly in San Diego.
Unlikely to be major players in free agency, the Los Angeles Angels will have to be creative this offseason if they're going to improve their ballclub.
While acquiring young, controllable pitching by trading away a big league hitter such as Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos appears to be their top priority, adding an established big league hitter like Chase Headley for one season could be an option. If they can expand the deal to include that pitcher they're seeking, it's an even better option.
For Headley and right-hander Joe Wieland, a promising back-of-the-rotation starter who missed the entire 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Angels could send back second baseman Howie Kendrick (pictured), who still has three years and less than $29 million remaining on his current contract, and relief prospect R.J. Alvarez, who struck out 79 hitters in 48.2 innings in the High-A California League in 2013.
By trading away Kendrick, the Angels free up payroll space in 2014-2015 and allow Grant Green a shot at regular playing time at second base and top prospect Taylor Lindsey a much clearer path to the big leagues. Wieland would be a leading candidate for the No. 4 or 5 spot in the rotation.
The Padres probably can't afford or don't want to give Headley what he's seeking in a long-term contract, but the remaining amount on Kendrick's deal is a much better fit for their small-market budget. He also fills the void at second base created by Jedd Gyorko's move to third base to replace Headley.
Whether the Padres trade Chase Headley to the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers or not, there's a chance he ends up there as a free agent the following season. So it's doubtful they'll worry too much about a trade coming back to haunt them.
Still, the Dodgers have a huge void at third base, and the Padres have the top trade target at the position. If it makes sense for both sides, it could very well happen.
The Dodgers' farm system has some high-end talent but not much depth after the first four or five prospects. Los Angeles also has two very good young relievers in Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow (pictured), who could appeal to the Padres.
If the Dodgers gave up Joc Pederson and Withrow, they could add Headley, another piece to the puzzle for a 2014 championship run.
Pederson has value after a strong 2013 campaign (.878 OPS, 22 HR, 31 SB in Double-A) but no place to play in a crowded Dodgers outfield. Withrow flourished after a move to the bullpen, posting a 2.60 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 34.2 big league innings as a rookie, but he could be replaced with one of several late-inning relievers available on the free-agent market.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has his hands full trying to fill several holes on the Yankees roster, including at third base with Alex Rodriguez likely to serve a suspension that will keep him out of action for the entire season.
While the Yankees could try to bring back the injury-prone Kevin Youkilis for another season or opt for an expensive free-agent option like Jhonny Peralta, they could find that Chase Headley is the perfect fit for a 2014 team that desperately needs an infusion of younger talent.
While the farm system isn't flush with talent, New York probably has just enough to bring in one impact player on a deal.
For one year of Headley, the Yankees might have to part with center fielder Mason Williams (pictured), who is still a very good prospect despite a drop in value after a mediocre 2013 season in High-A, and right-hander Jose Campos, who had a strong season in Low-A (3.41 ERA, 87 IP, 82 H, 16 BB, 77 K) after returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out of action for most of the 2012 season.
Williams came into the 2013 season as the 51st-best prospect in the game, according to Baseball Prospectus, so he'd be tough to part with for a team that hasn't produced much homegrown talent in some time. But the Yankees also can't afford the disastrous season that could occur should Cashman not be able to add some premium talent this winter.