Disclaimer: Yes, all I ever write about is Chase Headley. I don’t mean to, but today I read something about the Chase Headley situation that made me go on a rant on twitter (@The_NV), so here I am, several hours later, properly motivated to expound on that rant with a real thousand word blog post. So here goes nothing.
Chase Headley is getting expensive. He’s entering his third arbitration year in 2013, thanks to his super-two status in 2011, and that means he’s going to start making real money. Somewhere around $6 million next year, they say. That’s a lot of money. This is why the Padres need to trade him and start Jedd Gyorko at 3B next year. Gyorko is $5.5 million less expensive than Headley, and have you seen him crushing baseballs in Tucson? It’s impressive. He’s ready. It’s time to move on.
The Padres long-awaited ownership transfer is almost over. Ron Fowler, the O’Malley/Seidler kids, Phil Mickelson, and whoever else they’ve got with them have been approved by the owners. Moores and Moorad are past history, thank God. We have about a week to go before all the money is exchanged and our new overlords will be willing to actually speak to the media and the fans about where the Padres are headed under their leadership.
What should this mean? A changing of the guard should mean a restoration of the pre-2008 direction of the Padres. Payroll’s going up, it seems. The Padres, pre-trade deadline, apparently with the approval of our new overlords, Josh Byrnes started handing out contracts. Carlos Quentin got a 3 year deal worth at least $27 million. Huston Street got a 2 year deal worth at least $14 million. Next year, they will make a combined $16.75 million. Also, reportedly, the Padres are looking at outfielders this offseason, including but not limited to Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, and BJ Upton.
Those guys are going to make a lot of money. Hamilton and Bourn will likely make north of $15 million a year for at least 5 years. Upton won’t make as much, but signing him would still be a significant long-term investment. If the Padres are seriously considering one of these guys, then why are they seemingly so hesitant to commit to Chase Headley’s $6 million arbitration number?
If the Padres do plan to spend money this offseason, $6 million is nothing. $6 million isn’t going to prevent them from doing anything they’re already planning or hoping to do. Chase Headley is not getting expensive. Chase Headley, given the production that should be expected from him for the next 5+ years, will likely never be expensive. If the Padres signed Chase Headley tomorrow to a $5 year, $55 million, which I think would be market value and buying high, the only time he’s ever expensive is the on the last year of a back loaded deal. Chase Headley making $13 million in 2016 isn’t expensive. $15 million in 2017 would be pretty steep, sure, but given the trajectory the franchise should be on, not going to break the bank, and in 2017 he’ll only be 33 years old. If they want to see if Chase’s 20+ home run power is sustainable before they bust out the checkbook, $6 million is a bargain. The idea that $6 million is a lot of money in Major League Baseball in 2013, for a team with new owners and a new billion-dollar TV deal, should be taken out back and shot. Anybody who says $6 million is expensive should be dismissed immediately.
But what about Jedd Gyorko? He, so many say, is ready to step right in whenever the team brings him up, whether it’s to play third or second. I watched a video of a homer he hit the other day. It was a great right-handed swing that should work pretty well in Petco. I’m in. Let’s do it. Let’s put him at second base, sign an outfielder, bring up our young starters who are healthy and put this baby into overdrive for 2013!
What Jedd Gyorko shouldn’t do is push Chase Headley off his bag and out of town. Gyorko is not a great defender, at third or second, and almost all his value will be in his offense, playing half his games in an extreme pitcher’s park he’ll have to adjust to or work around, against much better pitching than he’s faced thus far in his short professional career. Not even Chase Headley was allowed to push the starter off his bag when he arrived in San Diego, and he was a much higher ranked prospect than Gyorko currently is. He’s not Jurickson Profar by any means. Profar is a phenom, one of the 5 best prospects in baseball. Gyorko is a consensus borderline top 50 prospect. That’s good, but it’s not “push your best player out of town” good.
And that brings me to my final point: Chase Headley is the best player on the Padres. He is the team MVP for 2012. He’s homegrown, a clubhouse leader, and no matter what stats you value most, and he’s the best the Padres have to offer. He is, in a lot of ways, like Adrian Gonzalez before the 2010 season. One of the ways he’s not like Adrian is that he won’t make anywhere near $20+ million a year when he eventually signs a long-term deal somewhere. If the new owners want to signal a changing of the guard, to show the fans that brighter days are ahead, isn’t extending your best player the best way to do so? Wouldn’t trading your best player send the opposite signal, that these new owners bring the status quo to San Diego, the inability to commit to competing on a regular basis? Phil Mickelson wants to change the culture of the Padres and the community? Wouldn’t the best way to make that commitment to the fans (other than getting the team on TV throughout the county) be making a commitment to the team’s best player?