Chase Headley: A Riddle Wrapped In a Mystery Inside an Enigma

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Artwork courtesy of Jeremy Nash

Chase Headley has been walking around on crutches in the Padres’ Spring Training clubhouse in Peoria thanks to a strained right calf muscle. It’s merely the latest in a surprisingly rich history of injuries suffered by Headley over the past few years. And that may answer a few questions.

You may be asking, “What questions?”

How about:

Why hasn’t Headley been able to put up the equivalent of his second half 2012 numbers over a full season?

August 2011: Fractured Left Pinkie

Headley fractured his left pinkie finger while sliding on August 6, 2011 against the Pirates. Headley was hitting .292 with four home runs and 43 RBIs at the time of the injury. And some might say it was a sign of things to come, in both positive and negative ways.

2012

I think we all know what happened in 2012. While the Padres were extending contracts of some of their players (Cameron Maybin and Cory Luebke), they did not pursue a deal with Headley due to the potential of third base prospects Jedd Gyorko and Logan Forsythe. After a slow start, Headley was rumored to be traded but was kept at the trade deadline in July. Headley was a monster at the plate after the trade deadline. He was tied for the major league lead in home runs (10) and led the majors with 31 RBIs in August. He hit .306 (33-for-108) in August with 20 runs scored and a .611 slugging percentage. Over the final 57 games of the season, he batted .313 with 19 homers, 44 runs scored and 63 RBIs.

Padres fans screamed “EXTEND HEADLEY!” at the tops of their lungs during the 2012-13 offseason.

March 2013: Fractured Left Thumb

Headley fractured the tip of his left thumb attempting to break up a double play sliding into second base during Spring Training. He missed the first 2 weeks of the season and never really found a groove all season.

As it turns out, there could have been another reason for that…

October 2013: Torn Left Meniscus

Headley had arthroscopic knee surgery immediately after last season. He said the knee gave him problems when he hit from the left side. I give him credit for going out there anyway last season and not using it as an excuse for his “below average” performance.

2014: Strained Right Calf

After suffering a “Grade 1” strain of his right calf during infield drills Saturday, Headley will likely miss anywhere from two to three weeks after getting an MRI yesterday.

Now, does this mean if he was healthy for an entire season, Headley would put up gaudy numbers? No. He has always been a late bloomer, as 2012 showed. However, all these nagging little injuries can only cut into his training and conditioning. I’d would have loved to have seen what a healthy Chase Headley could have done with a full year last season.

Now, it looks more and more like this year will be Headley’s last in a Padres uniform. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and doesn’t want to talk about a contract extension during the season. If he manages to regain his 2012 form early the Padres will be faced with the tough choice of whether or not to trade him.

What say you? Does this calf injury mean Headley gets hot later as he has in the past? Or is this just a hiccup and everything will be coming up roses in a few weeks? Is he gone at the trade deadline? After the season? Or do the Padres manage to pull of a minor miracle and sign him to an extension? Tell me stories in the comments.

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  • Thjbriggs

    All this illustrates is that perhaps the Padres aren’t wrong for being cautious in giving out a big contract to Headley.

  • GoldenBoy

    One option people don’t talk about is Chase signing an extension right after the season ends, a la Hunter Pence last season. I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, but it’s at least a possibility, especially if Chase puts up stats in between his 2012 & 2013 seasons.

    • I think it’s more likely he’d opt for free agency to try to get more money than an extension tendered at that time would offer. Because you know someone out there is going to overpay.

      • GoldenBoy

        I think this is definitely true. But if Chase has one of his typical, good yet under the radar seasons, the Padres might be the team looking to overpay. If we have no viable replacement at 2B or 3B, the Pads may want to overpay a little bit since 2014 should be a peak year for the team to contend. A solid 3B like Chase is a hot commodity in the game though, so I’m not keeping my hopes up.

  • Laurence Adams

    under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, do I see them extending him..and I just have two things to say about it all, with both him and the team, playing possum.

    1) the front office keeps saying they’re at an impasse with him. This just means that his agent has put a number out there in dollars and yrs, and the Padres ARE NOT interested in paying him what his agent wants for him. Add to that, the agent has probably told them, they didnt like the initial offer, which we’ll never know about, because it’ll just tick off the fans that want the Padres to pay him more than he’s worth. We saw some of this play out with Adrian back in the day…maybe not to this extent, because EVERYBODY in San Diego Cty, knew the Padres were not ready or willing to extend Adrian beyond 3 or 4 yrs..so he got traded.

    2) Chase, keeps saying he doesnt wanna talk contract during the season, because he doesnt want it to distract him or the clubhouse. Well, thats a bunch of BS, because there have been players wayyyyy better than him who got extended during ST, and the team was not distracted, because they didnt know what the Hell was going on in the first place. Agents and front office personnel, keep that kinda stuff on the down low. Did any of us see Hundley, Venable and Maybin getting extensions when they did?…how could anybody have been distracted, when all the business was being handled behind the scenes?

    So, when he says that type of BS, what he’s really saying is, “Im not interested in being extended here, because it should have happened already…2) I should’ve been extended BEFORE anyone else..3)the ballpark and the division’s ballparks, STILL don’t suit my game better than a bunch of other ballparks, going forward…4) I wanna test FA because I know another team will pay me more, simply because they wont be as cheap as the Padres..and 5) Im tired of being “The Man” that has to carry the heavier load. I wanna be on a team, where Im not “The Man”, and I can produce quietly and get my money at the same time”

    • Todd T

      I completely agree with you on all accounts. In my opinion, Chase has no desire to remain a Padre beyond this year

  • ballybunion

    I thought Headley said before Spring Training that he wouldn’t rule out his agent negotiating during the season. Did he not say that, or did he backtrack on it? Can it be, Headley’s agent is persuading Chase to hold out for top dollar from the Padres or just go for the free agent jackpot? That Cashner went to arbitration over such a small amount makes me think his agent wants more too. Maybe tagging players as core players or potential aces before signing them to long term contracts isn’t the way to go.

  • Billy Lybarger

    5 years at $15MM per should be able to get it done. And that would be a good deal for both. Chase with a neutral offensive season is still a 2WAR player just from defense. He has proven he is top 5 at defense and that skill should not diminish much over 5 seasons.

    He is a career 115 wRC+, so he should easily average out another 1.5 WAR for offense at well. And that is at a minimum. What I am saying is Chase will easily provide the value of a five year deal at near market rate. And the Padres will have to pay market rate because they held out too long.

    Chase needs to be signed, plain and simple. The Padres have no 3Bs in the system. None. They also have very little at 2B that allows Gyorko to move. Spangenberg is not going to cut it offensively (or defensively for that matter) to think he can push Jedd to 3rd, and Chase out the door.

    Reward your homegrown guy. it’s good process and good value. The revenue is now there and can reward their best player. The lesson learned is to get the offer in early, and do not overhype your own farm. Especially when guys are only marginally productive at lower levels.

    • Laurence Adams

      What will you say, if he puts up numbers closer to last year, than 2012?… I bet you won’t feel good about 15 million per, then.

      The kid is wayyyyyyy too much of a question mark, to throw that kind of loot at him.

      Even if he does something like 20hrs/80 ribbies, 15 million a year, is too much. I would need to see, near 50 doubles, and 15-20 bags, to feel good about the kind of deal, you’re talking, bro.

      Chase Headley, is a 60-62 million dollar guy, here…MAYBE. if he goes elsewhere, I agree he may get more money.

      Bottom line, he wants to walk…but he’d never say that, cuz its bad business.

      • ballybunion

        I think both of you are ignoring what the extra national TV money has done to salaries. $15 mil/yr was the going rate two years ago. The Yankees/Dodgers will throw $20-$25 mil at him in November.

      • Important point.

      • Billy Lybarger

        I will say the Padres are getting what they paid for. Chase at 3.6 fWAR last season was worth $17.8MM. So actually, if he repeats ’13 the Padres would get a slight bargain. Salaries have changed, bro. Try reading Fangraphs to get current.