After a few weeks spent on the fence between buying and selling this July, the Padres have fallen 12 games below .500, and they’re now a team ready to sell. Despite being just 8.5 games out of first in a weak NL West, the San Diego organization likely sees a bigger opportunity in front of them. Young players like Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera have already showcased offensive potential this season, while Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal continue to search for the offensive numbers they once had in the minor leagues. The Padres have a strong crop of young and cost controlled infielders, who each have All Star potential.
But at 12 games under .500 at the 2013 All Star break, the Padres realize that they won’t win today. With depth in the infield, the team still needs to shape up in the outfield and in their rotation. They have a number of bullpen arms to sell, along with some older pitchers like Jason Marquis and Eric Stults, but the real prize of the team is a struggling Chase Headley.
With the emergence of Jedd Gyorko, the 29 year old Healdey has not only become expendable at third base, but his recent struggles in Petco have almost made him a liability. In 355 plate appearances this season, Headley is hitting just .229/.330/.359 with 7 home runs. Compare this to their rookie third baseman/second baseman Gyorko, who’s 5 years younger, $8 million cheaper, and batting .272/.330/.440. With Gyorko back from his own DL stint, the Padres are now willing to sell on Headley, and despite his recent struggles, there’s plenty of reason for buyers to be interested.
After 4 seasons in the major leagues, Headley finally broke out in 2012, won a gold glove, a silver slugger, and came in 5th place for the MVP vote. His .286/.376/.498 line in an NL West filled with pitcher’s ballpark was one of the most impressive slashes of the year. But for a player that’s OPS’d just .760 over his career, buying on him isn’t exactly a safe bet. You have to look into career splits to see the enticement, Headley has destroyed the ball outside of Petco Park, where he owns an .816 OPS in 1,637 plate appearance on the road. Other splits show that he’s a slow starter, and his overall OPS in the second half is 77 points higher than in the first half.
For the Yankees, his ability to switch-hit and play both third base and the outfield should be highly valued. His left-handed swing should see vast improvements in Yankee Stadium and the rest of AL East. With the uncertainty surrounding Alex Rodriguez, and a lack of depth in the outfield, Chase Headley solves two positional needs now and in the future. In regards to the offense, the organization has made it no secret that they want a right-handed bat this trade deadline, and he would solve this problem as well.
After OPSing .875 last season, Headley is at just .689 in 2013. This could be injury based, or it could just be struggles in small sample size. Over the last two weeks, Headley has looked healthier on the field, and is 13 for 48 (.271/.379/.438), so perhaps he’s over an awful slump. Despite the low numbers, the Padres’ asking price remains high. They’ve also hinted at offering him an extension as recently as this season. It seems like posturing at this point, but the Padres seem to be doing everything in their control to get a big haul for a player that could be considered extremely risky by other teams.
Headley looks like a fit in New York, and the Yankees have shown interest in the past. The Padres have a number of talented young players, but as I mentioned, they could use depth in both the rotation and the outfield. The Yankees have a number of outfield prospects and major league ready starters that are expendable. Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, and Slade Heathcott, along with David Phelps, Ivan Nova, and even Adam Warren might be interesting pieces for the Padres. The teams match up, Headley makes sense, and it’s one of the more likely trade scenarios I’ve seen drawn up this July.