The Padres avoided arbitration with Chase Headley this week on a deal that will pay him roughly $8.6 million over the 2013 season. This figure is just about the middle point between what Headley’s camp had asked for and what the Padres first stood at. Headley, who is under control for 2014, is coming as quite the steal for the Padres given his 2012 numbers.
While there’s certainly a lot to be relieved about in the short term, the future of Headley in San Diego looks more and more dark by the day. In his most recent interview with beat writer Bill Center, Headley described extension talks as a “quick discussion” and that both sides weren’t on the same page from the start. Oh….? Lovely.
One of the main points that the new ownership group has harped on since taking over is keeping the home grown talent in San Diego. Headley is a major part of that equation and is the primary guy that the Padres should want to keep around. Josh Byrnes has spent a majority of the winter telling the public that keeping Headley is a must. Suddenly I find that a little bit hard to believe. So to illustrate my concern/understanding of the situation, I’ve drawn up a few scenarios below and the likelihood that each will happen.
1. The Padres and Headley open up talks throughout the season. Talks are free flowing and, as Headley puts together another solid season, they settle on a $16M/year tag over 5 years. Contract is signed before the end of the year and he’s locked up. 10% chance.
2. The Padres can’t get on the same page with Headley and he plays out another great 2013. Suddenly his price tag going into arbitration in 2014 is substantially higher than the $8.6M the Padres are paying this year. The Padres realize they don’t want to pay the $13M tag that is negotiated and decide to trade Chase in the off season. 30% chance.
3. The Padres can’t get on the same page with Headley and he plays out another great 2013. They bite the bullet on paying him in arbitration with the idea that they’ll trade him at the 2014 trade deadline because the market wasn’t up to expectations in the winter. 70% chance
4. The Padres can’t get on the same page with Headley and he plays out another great 2013. They bite the bullet on paying him in arbitration but don’t end up trading him during the year with the hope that they can still re-sign him after the 2014 season. The Padres get out bid (surprise!). 30% chance.
A few different options here. Keep in mind that Headley isn’t asking for the ridiculous $22M/year that Adrian Gonzalez was looking for in his final year in San Diego. And with Martin Prado inking a 4 year $40M contract with Arizona, be sure that the starting price for Headley will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15M — just a shade below the $17M/year that the Mets are paying David Wright.
This is the Padres — expect the worst. Josh Byrnes hasn’t shown a whole lot in the way of logic thus far. This is a team that has 20% of it’s payroll tied into the back end of the bullpen and has a wealth of below-average starting pitching. For a 76 win team that made absolutely no adjustments in the off season, it seems like there’s not a sense of urgency to change anything right now — including the status of Headley.