Why the Padres should trade Chase Headley now
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One of the Padres bright spots in 2011, Chase Headley, is coming off his best season yet. His batting average was 20 points above his career average (.269) at a very respectable (.289). Headley’s home run total was down, but his slugging percentage was its highest since his rookie season. He did miss a significant portion of the season after sustaining a broken finger while sliding into second on a stolen base attempt. Headley has logged enough innings at third base to thoroughly assess his defensive ability.
While I don’t primarily rely on advanced statistics, such as UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) to solely rate or analyze a defender’s worth, I do find such a measurement valuable. Headley had a gold-glove worthy performance in 2010, finishing the season with a 17.9 UZR defensive rating. This season, Headley’s UZR dropped off significantly to a well-below average UZR of -5.0. Is this an anomaly for Chase, or merely a case of him coming into spring training (admittedly) heavier in an attempt to stay healthy, stronger throughout the season and improve his power production? I’ve watched Headley enough to know he’s a plus-defender when healthy. Despite the drop-off in this advanced defensive statistical measurement, the Padres seem to be very happy with Headley’s production at the hot corner.
So, why trade him now?
The Padres have a few internal options at third base, such as James Darnell, Logan Forsythe and top prospect Jedd Gyorko, who is emerging as the favorite for the near future. I believe the Padres should capitalize on selling high now, while they are still in a rebuilding mode. It would be dealing from a position of strength to go after a player that fits the Padres philosophy of trying to, “play PETCO Park into an advantage.” They could possibly look for a corner outfielder with strong defensive tools, speed to cover PETCO Park’s spacious outfield, who’s a gap-power/line-drive contact type hitter. While Headley’s overall numbers have gone up and down, his home and road offensive splits have been very consistent. Unfortunately, they’ve been consistently poor at home. Headley has dramatic career offensive splits. His career line at home is .229/.319/.336 in contrast to his very impressive career road numbers (.303/.364/.441). It’s apparent that Headley is not the prototypical power hitter for his position, or for PETCO Park. However, we haven’t seen many hitters, if any, flourish in PETCO. While Headley is a switch-hitter, he bats from the left side more often than not where his power numbers take a bigger hit. Ideally, the Padres should get a better run producer for third base. The Padres have the three aforementioned prospects and face Headley’s second significant raise through arbitration. This is coupled with his decline in defense and him being the polar opposite of a player who “plays PETCO Park into an advantage”.
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