Chase Headley made his 2008 debut for the Padres (after playing 8 games for the Padres in 2007) on June 17, 2008 at old Yankee Stadium. I know this because I can look it up online. But also because I was there, in my one and only trip to Yankee Stadium before it was torn down and replaced…by Yankee Stadium. But this was THE Yankee Stadium. And despite my lifelong hatred of the Yankees, no self-respecting baseball fan can say with a straight face that Yankee Stadium didn’t hold a certain hallowed ground status. It’s baseball history, as is Wrigley and Fenway. 2008 was the last season it would exist. And by happenstance the Padres would be playing the Yankees in interleague play. So, I hopped a plane, did some sightseeing, and took the subway to the Bronx to see the Padres lose 8-0 to the Yankees that day. No matter. It was a great experience. And it was Chase Headley’s first game of that season.
I was excited for Yankee Stadium. But I was also excited to get to see Chase Headley in person. After getting an amos buche of Chase Headley a year earlier, and with all the hype that comes along with hot prospects, expectations were high for Chase. I was so excited, I even took a picture of the scoreboard with a camera apparently set to the smallest possible setting (every picture from that trip to New York is this size…it is quite disappointing).
Chase Headley has never quite obtained the level that so many expected from him when he was called up. In part that was our fault, collectively, for placing such an unattainable amount of expectation on him. It’s not every day a player is nicknamed “The Savior,” tongue-in-cheek though it may have been, before he even takes a swing for the MLB club. This isn’t to say that Chase Headley was or is a disappointment. Far from it.
Since 2008, Chase Headley’s combined WAR of 20.1 is the best of all Padres position players and the race isn’t all that close. Adrian Gonzalez is second on that list despite roughly half the ABs. 3rd? Will Venable at 10.9. His career offensive WAR is the 8th highest in Padre history which means that Chase Headley is one of the 10 best offensive players in Padres history if you accept that metric as your barometer.
Of course, you already know what the asterisk is to all of these things. 2nd half of the season. 2012. For a brief moment in time, Chase Headley was everything we all had hoped he be in 2008 when he walked out onto Yankee Stadium. His 7.2 WAR in 2012 was, and is, far and away the best output Headley has had as Padre. He more than doubled that number in 2012 from his previous career high. But two years removed from that breakout season, Headley has never been able to reproduce that level of production. And more and more that burst is looking like the aberration some warned it likely was.
To complicate matters, both the Padres and Chase Headley overplayed their hand post-2012. For the Padres, the opportunity to trade Headley, at his all time highest value, could have resulted in a haul that may have substantially altered the Padres as an organization. For Headley, he wouldn’t discuss long-term deals, whether that was due to the offers being too low (in $ or years) or simply because he anticipated more of the same in 2013 and wanted to hit the free agent market where he would almost certainly be richly rewarded. For context, per Baseball-Reference.com, Chase Headley’s 2012 WAR was equivalent to Greg Vaughn’s 1998 season. You know, the season he hit 50 HRs.
But Headley came back down to earth. And while he continues to provide plus defense, and continues to be above average at the plate (well, above average over the past 30 days or so in which it seems like he has found his swing that looked painfully lost at the beginning of the season), he’s never been close to the player we saw in 2012. And I no longer believe, like I once did, that he is or should be in any long-term plans.
The problem in looking at Chase Headley’s career numbers in making the case for keeping him is that it includes that 2012 season. But increasingly the evidence is piling up that those numbers have to be thrown out when considering what you’re getting with Chase Headley. In 2015, he is not worth the $12 million/yr (estimate) to a team that is unlikely to contend in 2015.
It’s not news that the Padres are not good this year. They may not be all that good next year. Chase Headley continues to have a lot of value. He’d be one of the most sought after free agent third basemen in the off-season. And the Padres need players. Lots of them, with potential, to plug into a depleted farm system. Headley is 31, and by time the Padres are serious contenders he’d be closer to 35 than 30. He can no longer be considered part of the plan in San Diego as the plan in San Diego has now changed. The future was suppose to be now. Now that we know it isn’t, it’s time to abandon ship, reload, and try again. The hole will instantly be filled by Gyorko, leaving a hole at 2nd base that is far easier to fill.
I’ll root for Chase Headley where ever he plays next (excluding the 213 area code). But it’s time to say goodbye. We gave it the old college try but it wasn’t to be. It’s time to trade Chase Headley.
Of course, having a GM to pull off such a trade would be nice.
I post on Friday’s and occasionally other times when the mood should strike. I’m becoming increasingly sure that Jonah Keri is a witch. I mean, he basically jinxed Kerhaw’s scoreless streak last night which was broken up by? Chase Headley, naturally. Tweet at me @LeftCoastBias or comment below!